Gauchos Blow Past Penn State in Series Opener, 10-4

Drew Williams (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Drew Williams (photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara scored in six of its first seven offensive innings and capitalized on five errors by Penn State to claim a 10-4 series-opening victory on a windy and uncharacteristically-cold day at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. 

In his first collegiate start, freshman first baseman Drew Williams reached in all five of his plate appearances to lead the offensive charge for the Gauchos, who improved to 3-6 overall with the win. The Hollister, Calif. native singled to center in his first NCAA at-bat, then launched a solo home run to tie the game at 3-3 in the fourth inning. He later sandwiched a seventh-inning base hit with a pair of full-count walks. 

Besides Williams, the top three orders in the Gaucho lineup - DH Clay Fisher, right fielder Armani Smith, and catcher Eric Yang - combined to go 6-13 with three runs scored and five RBIs. 

"We were able to get some good swings off today, and we got some help defensively from [Penn State]," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "When you put the ball in play, you're able to do that, and we did a good job of applying pressure."

Penn State (3-4) looked to have the upper hand early in the contest, as catcher Ryan Sloninger hit a line-drive home run to right in the second to go ahead 2-1 before an RBI single from Connor Klemann stretched the visitors' lead to 3-1 in the third. 

It would be all Gauchos from there on out, however, with UCSB outscoring PSU 8-1 for the remainder of the contest.

The decisive blow came in the fifth inning, as sophomore center fielder Tommy Jew made the Nittany Lions pay for a two-out, none-on walk by lofting a double into left field just past the outstretched glove of PSU's Braxton Giavedoni to score Thomas Rowan all the way from first base. 

RBI doubles from Fisher and Yang provided a pair of insurance runs in the sixth, and then UCSB put the game away for good just after the seventh inning stretch, scoring four runs as part of a three-hit rally aided by a trio of Nittany Lion errors. 

On the mound, righty relievers Alex Patterson and Chris Lincoln performed well in high-leverage situations to help preserve the lead for UCSB. 

Patterson inherited a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning, but attacked Giavedoni - the Penn State cleanup hitter - and ended the threat with a four-pitch strikeout. He would go on to strike out three more batters in his two innings of shutout relief, for which he was awarded the win to improve his record to 1-1. Lincoln, a sophomore out of Moreno Valley, Calif., retired both the batters he faced including a big strikeout of Giavedoni to open the eighth. 

Redshirt freshman Jack Dashwood drew the start for UCSB, allowing three earned runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings of action. He impressed most in the first, where he allowed just an infield single and promptly picked off that runner at first base, and the fourth, when he retired the side in order. 

Thanks to nine strikeouts from the pitching staff, UCSB's defense was not tested as often as Penn State's, but several fielders made key plays in the win. Smith, who drove in three runs on a pair of singles with the bat, made what turned out to be arguably the biggest defensive play of the game in the fifth inning, making a shoestring catch of a Shea Sbranti liner near the right field line, turning an RBI single or more into the second out of the inning, which helped the Gauchos escape that potentially dangerous frame unscathed. 

UCSB and Penn State resume their series on Sunday afternoon with a 2:00 p.m. contest. Junior right-hander Noah Davis. UCSB's opening day starter, is slated to take the ball for the Gauchos opposite PSU southpaw Taylor Lehman (1-0, 1.80 ERA).