HONOLULU – UC Santa Barbara junior first baseman Austin Bush launched his 19th and 20th home runs of the season in a 7-2 win over Hawaii on Thursday night at Les Murakami Stadium, becoming the program's single-season home run champion and moving into the top-ten nationally in roundtrippers in the process.
Playing their final series of the season, UCSB improved to 24-30 (8-14 Big West) with the win while Hawaii dropped to 26-24 (8-14).
Bush hammered a three-run homer as part of a decisive five-run rally in the third for the Gauchos, giving the team all the runs it would need to pull out the win. The Turlock, Calif. native then led off the fifth with a solo shot to right-center, becoming the first Gaucho ever to reach the 20-homer mark in one season.
He had entered the game tied with Tyler Von Schell (2001) for the program's single-season home run record, but Bush stands alone at the top of the record book after his two-homer day. With 10 home runs in his past 10 games, Bush now sits sixth in the nation and first in the western half of the country in homers.
The continued power surge for Bush made a winner out of UCSB starting pitcher Noah Davis, who turned in one of his better starts of the season. The sophomore right-hander surrendered just three hits and one earned run over his six-inning outing, sending down the Rainbow Warriors in order in three separate frames.
Hawaii was only able to do damage against Davis in one inning, the fifth, parlaying a leadoff two-base error and two singles into a pair of runs. He bounced back after that with a 1-2-3 sixth before exiting the game. Davis started the game hot, retiring the first eight batters he faced, then pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the third by fanning UH three-hitter Kekai Rios.
Inheriting a 6-2 lead in the seventh, freshman right-hander Liam Steigerwald shut out the Rainbow Warriors the rest of the way, allowing just a pair of singles, to earn a three-inning save.
The Gauchos set up Bush's third-inning blast with three straight hits to start off the frame. Redshirt junior catcher Dempsey Grover started it off by driving a double into the right center gap, then moved to third when junior second baseman Colton Burns ripped a base hit up the middle. Freshman right fielder Armani Smith then opened the scoring with a single to left, plating Grover and bringing Bush to the plate.
UCSB was able to bring in another run before the inning was spent to take a 5-0 lead, as junior third baseman Kenny Corey lined an opposite-field triple to bring in Billy Fredrick, but Corey was gunned down at home trying for the inside-the-park home run.
The Gauchos closed their scoring ledger with a Grover squeeze bunt in the eighth, plating freshman center fielder Tommy Jew who had reached on a leadoff single.
UCSB and Hawaii resume their series tonight at 9:35 p.m. PT. UCSBGauchos.com will have live audio of the contest.