SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Cal Poly starter Erich Uelmen took a shutout into the ninth inning and shortstop Kyle Marinconz drove in a team-high three runs as the Mustangs topped UC Santa Barbara 11-2 in Friday's Big West series opener at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Uelmen confounded the Gauchos (22-28, 7-12 Big West) for the majority of his eight-plus inning outing, limiting UCSB to just three singles while striking out eight over his first eight frames.
Reigning Big West Field Player of the Week Austin Bush broke up Uelmen's shutout with a two-run homer in the ninth, a roundtripper which represented the extent of UCSB's offense on Friday but chased Uelmen from the game as right-hander Austin Dondanville came on to get the final three outs.
"Uelmen was suffocating the strike zone with all his pitches, didn't miss up very often, and mixed in a change-up to our right-handed hitters which you don't see very often in college baseball," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "He got two strikes on our guys pretty quickly and it's hard to hit when you have two strikes."
The roundtripper continued a torrid run for the UCSB first baseman, who has compiled six homers in his last six games and extended his Big West-leading total to 16 on the season. The bomb was also the 30th of his career, moving him into a tie for sixth-most in school history.
Cal Poly (24-27, 12-7) did all of their offensive damage in three innings, getting on the board with a two-run second, bringing in the game-winning run during a five-run rally in the fourth, and then icing the game with a four-run eighth.
Catcher Nick Meyer had the big blow in the opening rally, smacking a run-scoring double off the left field padding and then coming in himself on a Josh George groundout.
The Mustangs strung together four singles and a Scott Ogrin triple in the decisive fourth to put up five runs and go ahead 7-0 off UCSB starter Noah Davis, who would last one more inning before making way for the bullpen in the sixth.
Marinconz put the game out of reach in the eighth with a long three-run home run to right field off freshman righty Connor Roberts, who pitched fairly well his first time through the lineup.
The De La Salle product struck out a pair in the sixth, his first inning of action, before working around a leadoff double from Marinconz in the seventh to put up another zero. The eighth inning roundtripper against him was made worse only because he allowed a pair of infield singles earlier in the inning.
Elsewhere for UCSB, senior left fielder Billy Fredrick was the lone Gaucho with multiple hits, rolling a grounder up the middle against Uelmen in the sixth and then doing so again off Dondanville in the ninth. Freshman catcher Eric Yang, who came into the game in the eighth inning, singled in his only plate appearance to give him hits in three of his last four at-bats.
With the victory, Cal Poly stayed mathematically alive in the race for the Big West title. The Mustangs must win all their remaining contests, Long Beach State must go 1-5 or worse in their remaining games, and Fullerton must lose at least one game to CSUN this weekend for that to happen.
The Gauchos and Mustangs resume their series tomorrow with a 2:00 p.m. contest at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. Sunday's series finale has been moved up one hour and will now begin at 12:00 p.m.