Gauchos Top USC 11-2 in Home Finale

Tommy Jew (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Tommy Jew (photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.Austin Bush launched his record-tying 18th home run of the season and an all-freshman outfield combined for eight hits and four RBIs as UC Santa Barbara routed visiting USC 11-2 in Tuesday's home finale at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

With 16 hits as a team, there was no shortage of offensive standouts for the Gauchos (23-30) as every starter had at least one hit.

"It was nice to play a little bit better in our last home game and get the win," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "Last weekend was pretty humbling, so it was nice to see we got a response out of the guys. Even though we haven't played great, the guys have continued to play hard, so they can hang their hat on that, that they've continued to give effort."

Freshman center fielder Tommy Jew finished a triple short of the cycle and freshman left fielder Armani Smith went 3-5 to lead UCSB's big day with the bats, but the big headline was generated by Bush's solo shot in the third inning, which extended his Big West lead in the home run department and placed him in a tie with Tyler Von Schell (2001) for the most single-season home runs in Gaucho lore.

Bush, who's now launched eight homers in the last nine games, needs just one more roundtripper in the team's final three contests to become UCSB's home run champion.

"During last year's postseason run, we struggled a little bit with the bats and it felt at times that Austin was our offense," said Checketts. "He's had that effect this year as well with his ability to take over games with his power. Three of his last four homers he's mishit a little bit, which just shows you how strong he is. He sure has been spectacular for us in the middle of the order."

Though Bush's big fly to right center proved to be the game-winning run ultimately, UCSB continued to pour it on over the final two-thirds of the game.

Bush drove in his second run of the game with a line double off the right field fence in the fifth inning, then junior second baseman Colton Burns brought in a pair one inning later by rolling a two-run single through the 3-4 hole.

UCSB's biggest offensive burst came just after the seventh inning stretch, with the Gauchos stringing together five hits and nearly hitting for the cycle as a team to bring across four runs. Jew, who lined an RBI double into the left-center gap, and freshman right fielder Landon Silver, who plated a pair with a triple to right-center as part of a 2-3 day, had the most momentous blows of the rally.

For good measure, Jew capped off his highlight reel day and the game's scoring with a solo home run in the eighth off the left field netting, his fourth of the season and second in as many games.

As successful as UCSB was in producing runs against the struggling Trojans (20-32), Gaucho starter Ben Brecht was just as effective in limiting USC's lineup.

The freshman lefty, who was likely making his final start of the season, scattered six hits and allowed just two earned over his seven inning outing.

The Trojans only landed blows against Brecht in the fourth and sixth innings, and both times the Gaucho southpaw was able to limit the damage to one run.

A single and double in fourth opened the scoring for the Trojans, but any momentum the visitors had was stalled when Blake Sabol, who had doubled, was gunned down trying to steal third by UCSB redshirt junior catcher Dempsey Grover. Brecht ended the frame moments later by fanning USC right fielder Corey Dempster.

The Trojans were able to cash in a leadoff double for a run in the sixth, but Brecht escaped that inning with no further damage before ending his outing with a 1-2-3, 10-pitch seventh inning.

"I thought Ben was good today, he did a good job of being in the strike zone and giving us a chance by being ahead in the count," said Checketts.

UCSB righty relievers Chris Clements and Conner Roberts added shutout innings to close out the game.

The Gauchos finish up their 2017 season with a three-game Big West series at Hawaii starting on Thursday night at 9:35 p.m. PT. UCSBGauchos.com will carry audio-only broadcasts of all three games in the series.