Gauchos Top Nicholls State 8-6 to Close Out Kleberg Classic

Jason Willow (photo by Tony Mastres)
Jason Willow (photo by Tony Mastres)

CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. – The UC Santa Barbara baseball team put together its best batting performance of the season in Sunday's neutral-field game against Nicholls State at the Kleberg Bank College Classic, closing out the tournament with an 8-6 victory on Sunday afternoon at Whataburger Field. 

Several Gauchos had their best offensive days yet in 2018, including sophomore center fielder Tommy Jew (2-5, two RBIs), sophomore right fielder Armani Smith (2-2, two runs), and freshman shortstop Andrew Martinez (2-4, two RBIs), helping the team improve its record to 2-5. 

Led by a solid start from junior right-hander Chris Clements, who allowed just one earned over 5 2/3 innings, the Gauchos went on to hold the Colonels to just two earned runs. 

Most of the action occurred late in the game, with UCSB scoring in each of the final four innings including crooked numbers in the sixth, seventh, and eighth. Leading 7-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth, Nicholls State gave UCSB a scare with an error-aided five-run rally to cut the lead to one, but freshman righty Chris Troye and junior right-hander Noah Davis – UCSB's Opening Day starter – teamed up to shut the door with a scoreless ninth, earning Davis his first career save. 

Nicholls State, which had four players record multiple hits, dropped to 1-6 with the loss. 

UCSB took the lead for good in the sixth, producing a pair of runs after Smith led off by pulling a line drive into the left-center gap for a triple followed by run-scoring singles from Martinez and Jew. 

The Gauchos went on to add another pair in the seventh on a two-run single from freshman third baseman Jason Willow and another two in the eighth on an RBI triple from Jew followed by a sac fly from redshirt junior DH Clay Fisher, who extended his season-opening hitting streak to seven games with a third-inning single. 

On the mound, Clements effectively scattered five hits over his 5 2/3 innings to match his career-best for lowest earned runs allowed in a start. After the Colonels got to him for a run in the first, he faced just one over the minimum through the fifth inning, needing just 11 pitches to get through the third and five pitches to get through the fifth. 

The UCSB bullpen combined to hold Nicholls State to one earned run over the final 2 2/3 innings, including standout relief efforts from sophomore righty Chris Lincoln – who has now thrown five scoreless innings to start the year – and Chris Troye

Next week, the Gauchos travel to Fresno State for a rematch with the Bulldogs on Wednesday afternoon before hosting Penn State at home for a three-game series starting Friday at 2:00 p.m.