SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara came into Friday's match hoping to earn its first win over Cal Poly since April of 2015, however, a strong four-run first inning proved to be enough for the Mustangs (25-27, 10-9 Big West) to earn a 5-3 win over the visiting Gauchos.
Santa Barbara (24-25-1, 8-11 Big West) has now lost seven-straight games to its Blue-Green rival and has also lost five of its last seven conference games. Along with that, UCSB is now under .500 for the second time in as many weeks.
Senior Stevie Ledesma was on the mound for the Gauchos to begin the game and had a rough outing to begin. In the first inning, the right-handed pitcher gave up four hits to the first four batters he faced on the day.
After the first two of the Mustang worked singles to have runners on first and second, freshman infielder Tate Samuelson knocked a single to left field to bring in a run and add to his team-high RBI total. Senior first baseman Elijah Skipps then laced a two-run double to left center making the score 3-0. Cal Poly would add one more before the end of the frame to have a commanding 4-0 lead just one inning into the game.
It would not take long for the Gauchos to respond, however, as a two-run single in the top of the second courtesy of freshman utility Jason Willow and a solo home run from junior Thomas Rowan in the top of the third brought the visiting team within one run of a tie at 4-3.
Despite a rough first inning, Ledesma responded well over the next few innings as he retired the next 13 batters after the two-run double before allowing a single in the fifth. In the sixth, Cal Poly would add an insurance run with an RBI single. Ledesma's night would be over after the sixth as he allowed seven hits and five earned runs to go along with four strikeouts.
Junior Alex Patterson would toss the final two innings of the game and pitched great allowing no hits and walking just one batter while striking out two.
Even with solid performances on the mound, UCSB went cold at the plate for the middle innings of the game. In the eighth, UCSB showed some signs of life with two one-out singles but were unable to work a run in.
Then, the Gauchos best shot to tie, and even win the game, came in the ninth as catcher Eric Yang worked a single to kick off the final frame. UCSB then avoided the double play ball as sophomore Armani Smith legged out a fielder's choice to be on first. Tevin Mitchell then singled giving the visitors runners on first and second with the top of the lineup coming to the plate.
With the game-leading run coming to the plate, Cal Poly made a pitching chance and went to freshman righty Taylor Dollard. The freshman then came up huge for the Mustangs as he notched the final two outs of the game for his third save.
Freshman Drew Williams and junior Clay Fisher were the two final Gauchos that came to the plate and both struggled on the night as they each went 0-5 on the day. Had one of the two worked a single, Cal Poly might have been in trouble as the 3-4-5 hitters for Santa Barbara combined to go 7-10 on the day including Rowan who had a great day at the plate going 3-3 with two singles and a dinger, his fourth of the season.
UCSB will take on Cal Poly for the second game of the series at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Baggett Stadium. Sophomore righty Chris Lincoln (2-3, 3.30 ERA) will be on the mound for the 'Chos.