Gauchos Drop Rubber Match 11-1 at Irvine

Armani Smith (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Armani Smith (photo by Eric Isaacs)

IRVINE, Calif. - Heading into Sunday's rubber match, the UC Santa Barbara baseball team had hoped to duplicate yesterday's wonderful performance on the mound and at the plate to take its fourth consecutive weekend series and try to remain among the Big West's best.

Unfortunately, what awaited the Gauchos (16-15-1 overall, 3-3 Big West) was much more reminiscent of the first game of the series as they were only able to muster three hits at the plate while the Anteater offense attacked starter Stevie Ledesma resulting in a lopsided 11-1 score in favor of the home team.

Through the first two innings of the ball game, both teams starters on the mound were looking solid as they allowed no hits despite errors on both sides. The only damage done through the first four innings was an RBI single that allowed UC Irvine to take an early 1-0 lead.

However, in the fifth, Irvine began to flip the script and pull away thanks to a five-hit, six-run frame. After picking up a strikeout, Ledesma allowed a single bringing up UCI's Matt Reitano to the plate. Despite having pitched a solid game to this point, Ledesma let a curveball catch a little too much of the top-half of the plate and Reitano took advantage blasting a two-run round tripper giving the home team a 3-0 lead.

An error by UCSB left fielder Blake Mann followed by another single had runners on first and second allowing for UCI's Brendon Brooks to line an RBI single up the middle. After a two-run triple, and a sac-fly RBI, Ledesma was finally relieved and Kevin Chandler got the next batter to fly out and finally end the inning with UC Irvine taking a commanding 7-0 lead. 

Irvine would go on to add two runs in the bottom of the sixth, both credited to Chandler to bump the lead up to 9-0. By this point through six innings, the Anteaters starting pitcher Trenton Denholm was rolling as he had yet to allow a single hit and was able to work around a couple of errors in the earlier frames.

In the seventh, after hitting sophomore catcher Eric Yang, Denholm allowed his first hit of the game as junior Sam Cohen was able to knock a single to right field advancing Yang to second.

Sophomore center fielder Tommy Jew hit into a double play but Yang was able to take third and eventually came around to score thanks to a wild pitch. However, Denholm forced the next batter to ground out and ended his day allowing just one hit, one run and striking out four to earn his third win of the year.

Over the final two innings, UCSB was able to tally two more hits, a double from both Marcus Castanon and Thomas Rowan in the eighth and ninth, respectively, but nothing came of them. In contrast, UC Irvine tallied two more runs making the final score 11-1 once the action was all said and done.

Sunday was Ledesma's worst outing since becoming a starter as he finished allowing seven hits, four earned runs, seven runs, and two walks in just 4.2 innings. Before today, the senior had allowed just three earned runs and 17 hits in his previous four starts (25 innings).

As for the offense, UCSB was held to its fourth-lowest hit total of the season. On the more positive side, however, Santa Barbara is still very much in the thick of things in conference play and won its first road match of the year yesterday.

UCSB will be back in action for a midweek match-up as it takes on USC at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17th at Dedeaux Field.