Series Even After Gauchos Edged Late in Hawaii

Kyle Nelson (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Kyle Nelson (photo by Eric Isaacs)

HONOLULU – UC Santa Barbara held a two-run lead through six innings of Friday night's Big West tilt at Les Murakami Stadium, but Hawaii brought across three runs over the seventh and eighth innings to squeak out a 3-2 series-evening win. 

Offense was hard to come by in the game, as both teams mustered just five hits on the night. UCSB (24-31, 8-15 Big West) scored both of its runs in the third inning, taking advantage of a pair of UH (27-23, 9-14) errors to take an early lead. 

Freshman catcher Eric Yang opened UCSB's rally after reaching on a one-out hit-by pitch. Junior second baseman Colton Burns then reached on an error by UH shortstop Dustin Demeter before both runners advanced into scoring position on an errant pickoff throw from Rainbow Warriors starter Neil Uskali.

Freshman left fielder Armani Smith got the Gauchos on the board with a sharp single through the right side, then junior first baseman Austin Bush cashed in Burns with a deep sacrifice fly to left field.

Bush, who became UCSB's single-season home run champion after hitting his 19th and 20th home runs of the season in Thursday's series opener, wasn't able to leave the yard on Friday but still had a big impact on the contest.

He narrowly missed his 21st dinger of the year in the first, ripping a two-out double off the right field wall. With Burns in scoring position in the eighth, the home team opted to intentionally walk Bush.   

After the Gauchos went up by a pair, Uskali and UCSB starter Kyle Nelson proceeded to enter a pitcher's duel. 

Neither starter yielded for the rest of their outings, as Nelson's only run against came after he left the game. The Gaucho southpaw ended his six-plus inning outing with just three hits and one earned run allowed. 

Josh Rojas' leadoff double in the seventh sent his pitch count over 100 and spelled the end of the day for Nelson, as freshman right-hander Shea Barry was summoned to limit the damage. The Rainbow Warriors were able to bring Rojas across, on a balk and RBI groundout, but that was all for the frame. 

UH produced the decisive rally its next turn at bat, loading the bases on an infield single and two walks and then scoring a pair of runs on a sac fly and RBI single from Rojas. 

UCSB and Hawaii will play the season finale and rubber match of their series on Saturday night at 9:35 p.m. PT. UCSBGauchos.com will have a live audio broadcast of the game.