FULLERTON, Calif. – For the second consecutive night, Austin Bush saw an early home run nullified as Cal State Fullerton came back to knot up the score.
But unlike Friday night's contest, Bush hit paydirt again with a ninth-inning opposite field bomb to cap off a late-innings rally for the Gauchos to preserve a 6-3 series-evening win in Saturday night's FOX Sports Prime Ticket-televised game. The two-dinger night pushed Bush's conference-leading home run total to 14 on the year.
After Timmy Richards smashed a game-tying homer in the bottom of the sixth, UCSB (21-26, 7-10) went on to post single runs in both the seventh and eighth innings to pull ahead, outlasting the Titans (30-17, 11-6) who briefly re-tied the game with a single run in the seventh inning of the FOX Sports Prime Ticket-televised event.
Bush then put the game on ice with a monster blast over the left field scoreboard at Goodwin Field, teeing off on a 3-2 offering from CSF reliever Jack Pabich.
"Obviously the star of the game is Austin Bush and his ability to two-strike battle and hit balls out of the ballpark," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "You don't see power like that very often in college baseball. To hit an opposite field home run like that at night in southern California is pretty special."
With the two teams going back and forth until Bush's killing blow, it was UCSB freshman closer Shea Barry who was able to shut the door on CSF with a six-out save.
Barry had his work cut out for him in the eighth, giving up a leadoff single and then seeing that runner go to third on a balk and sac bunt. Needing a big out, Barry got it by bouncing back from a 2-0 count to strike out pinch-hitter Jake Pavletich on an elevated 2-2 fastball. He then stranded the tying on run on third by getting Chris Prescott to roll out to short for the third out.
Sophomore right fielder Michael McAdoo was the hero in UCSB's decisive eighth inning rally, shooting a base hit through the right side to bring in Dempsey Grover, who reached on a bloop single before moving into scoring position on a sac bunt from Sam Cohen.
Junior shortstop JJ Muno and senior left fielder Billy Fredrick teamed up to drive in a go-ahead run in the seventh, with Muno leading off the inning by slicing a leadoff double into left-center gap off CSF starter John Gavin, who was also on the receiving end of Bush's conference-leading 13th home run of the year.
A nice sac bunt from nine-hole hitter Tevin Mitchell moved Muno up and put the Gauchos a fly ball away from going ahead, a move which turned out unnecessary as Fredrick stung the first pitch he saw back up the middle for an RBI single.
The early innings of the game suggested the contest was going to be a pitcher's duel, with Gavin and UCSB starter Noah Davis – making his return to the mound after two weeks on the shelf – trading zeroes through the first three frames.
Davis was especially strong early on, striking out the side in the first while throwing his first eight pitches for strikes. He pitched out of two-on jams in both the second and third innings before being lifted with two outs and nobody on in the fourth, making way for junior righty Chris Clements.
Gavin was in the stretch at some point in each of the first five innings, but did a nice job to hold UCSB off the board until he made a crucial mistake against Bush in the fifth, leaving a 2-1 fastball over the plate. Bush, who is now tied for the sixth-most single-season home runs in UCSB history, sent a no-doubter over the right field netting for a two-run lead.
UCSB will aim for its first conference series at Goodwin since 2007 tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. UCSBGauchos.com will carry a live audio broadcast of the game.