SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Anchored by a stellar debut start from junior right-hander Luke Andrews, the UC Santa Barbara baseball team recorded a solid 7-2 victory over Fresno State on Wednesday afternoon in the first home game of 2018 at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
The victory was the first of the year for the Gauchos (1-3), while the Bulldogs (4-1) dropped their first contest of the year after sweeping Michigan State over the weekend.
In his first-ever Division I start, Andrews dominated Fresno State by living in the zone (57 of his 79 pitches were strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 25 batters he faced) and mowing through hitters efficiently, ending his day with just one earned run on four hits with four strikeouts and no walks in seven complete innings.
The Bakersfield College transfer was at his best in the middle innings. After FS leadoff hitter Zach Ashford snuck a two-out single through the left side in the third, Andrews went on to retire the next 11 batters in a row, needing just nine pitches to get through the fourth and 10 to retire the side in the fifth.
Already staked to a 7-0 lead by that point, Andrews unfortunately left a 1-0 pitch just a bit too much over the plate to Bulldogs cleanup hitter JT Arruda to lead off the seventh, and a blustery day at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium helped carry the ball well over the right field fence for the only blemish on Andrews' resume. He bounced back by retiring the next three batters to finish his outing on a strong note. Paired with the 1-2-3 inning he tossed last weekend at SDSU, Andrews has allowed just one earned over his first eight innings at the Division I level.
"He was in the strike zone all day, I"m really happy for him and our team," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "It's nice to get a good start at home after not playing our best baseball last weekend."
Led by multi-hit efforts from redshirt junior DH Clay Fisher (3-4, one run scored), Armani Smith (2-4, one RBI), and Andrew Martinez (2-4, one RBI), the Gauchos produced a season-high in runs while leading 7-0 after the sixth inning.
Smith opened the scoring for UCSB in the fourth with a solid two-run single to right field with the bases loaded, making the Bulldogs pay for some wildness earlier in the inning, as sophomore catcher Eric Yang and junior right fielder Michael McAdoo reached on a wild pitch and walk, respectively, before being moved up on a Thomas Rowan single.
The Gauchos multiplied their lead with a big sixth inning, plating five runs on just three hits. Fresno did themselves no favors in that frame, as a muffed fly ball in right field was sandwiched by three UCSB singles early on in the inning, allowing a pair of runs to come in with just one out being recorded.
Pressure on the basepaths paid off for the Gauchos later in the same inning. A bases-loaded balk by Oscar Carvajal allowed a run to come in and moved the other runners up a base, which proved critical as Tommy Jew came across the next at-bat on a groundout, and then Fisher capped off the inning by getting a great read on a ball in the dirt and scoring from third despite the ball being no more than 10-15 feet from home plate.
Freshman right-hander Chris Troye followed up Andrews' start with a standout relief effort, retiring all five batters he faced to close out the games with a trio of strikeouts using his mid-high 90's fastball.
Ryan Sullivan, one of seven pitchers used by Fresno State, was saddled with the loss after allowing the pair of UCSB runs in the fourth. Starter Nikoh Mitchell, a freshman lefty, was solid early on allowing just a bloop double from Clay Fisher in his three shutout innings of work.
The Gauchos are next in action this weekend at the Kleberg Bank Classic in Corpus Christi, Tex., hosted by Texas A&M - Corpus Christi at Whataburger Field, the home venue of the Corpus Christi Hooks, Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. UCSB opens up play on Friday against Mississippi State, then battles the host Islanders on Saturday before finishing up against Nicholls State on Sunday morning.