UCSB Shakes Off Four-Run Deficit, Bests CSU Bakersfield 6-4

Chris Lincoln (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Chris Lincoln (photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara bullpen, led by a standout effort from freshman righty Chris Lincoln, combined for five shutout innings and the offense rallied for runs in four of the team's final five at-bats to overcome a 4-0 deficit and win 6-4 over CSU Bakersfield in Tuesday's midweek action at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

The Roadrunners (20-16) built a 4-0 lead after 3 1/2 innings off UCSB (18-20) starter Ben Brecht, who entered the contest with a streak of four consecutive quality starts. The Gauchos meanwhile were held off the board early by CSUB's Mathew Seibert, who was making his first career start.

Seibert, who had just nine innings of Division I experience before Tuesday's game and was in a controlled start, thrived in the first three innings but faltered to start the fourth, giving up a pair of one-out singles to put UCSB in business for the first time.

Reliever Kenny Johnson came in at that point for the Runners, but couldn't stop UCSB's momentum as JJ Muno rolled a grounder through the left side to load the bases. Freshman catcher Eric Yang plated the Gauchos' first run with an RBI groundout, and then Colton Burns came through with a line double into the left-center gap to bring in a pair and cut the deficit to one.

After that three-spot, Lincoln came on for UCSB in the top of the fifth. He greeted CSUB leadoff hitter Mark Pena with a backwards K, and then received some help from his shortstop to get out of the inning. With a runner on first and two outs, Max Carter chopped one to the left side of the infield and off the glove of third baseman Kenny Corey. The ball trickled towards left field, but Muno made a heads-up play, scooping the ball up and racing to tag Andrew Penner, who was trying to advance to a vacant third base.

UCSB tied the game in the sixth with a long rally, loading the bases on two singles and a Colton Burns walk. With the bags full, the Gauchos caught a break as Johnson was called for a balk after subtly starting and stopping his motion while facing Corey, bringing in the tying run.

Though the Gauchos had to settle for a tie after the sixth inning rally, they would go ahead for good the next inning as Austin Bush launched a 1-0 fastball from Mahlik Jones way over the right field fence for a go-ahead homer. Tuesday wasn't the first time Bush burned CSUB with a late home run, as he delivered UCSB an 8-7 victory with a two-run, ninth-inning roundtripper at Bakersfield on May 12, 2015.

Muno almost single-handedly provided the Gauchos with a big insurance run in the eighth, working a full-count walk before stealing second, then scoring when CSUB catcher Jake Ortega skipped his throw to third on another Muno stolen base.

As the Gauchos kept up the offensive pressure, Lincoln put his foot on the gas pedal and shut down the potent Runners' bats – the visitors entered the game with a .318 team batting average – over the duration of his season-high 3 1/3 inning outing.

After giving up just a single in the fifth, he went three-up, three-down in both the sixth and seventh innings before handing off to Steven Ledesma with one runner on in the eighth. Ledesma successfully ended that inning – with an assist from Dempsey Grover who threw out David Metzgar at third on a broken hit-and-run – and then Shea Barry closed it out with a scoreless ninth to pick up his third save of the year.

The top of the ninth started off shaky for Barry, who walked the leadoff hitter on four pitchers before giving up a base hit to Ortega, but he recovered to set down the next three hitters in order to preserve the victory.

"We showed some toughness and were able to come back and put some pressure on them after being down early," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "I think the set-up for that comeback today was Chris Lincoln, giving us the chance to be able to scrap our way back into it. He had a crisp fastball today, he contrasts with Ben really well, and he was able to his land his off-speed pitches for strikes."

UCSB resumes Big West Conference play this weekend at UC Riverside, starting on Friday night at 6:00 p.m. ESPN3 will televise the first two games of the series, while UCSBGauchos.com will have live audio broadcasts of all three contests.