Gauchos Comeback Falls Short in Vegas

Eric Yang (Photo by Carl Wolford)
Eric Yang (Photo by Carl Wolford)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – After losing an early 4-1 lead and trailing by as many as five runs, the UC Santa Barbara baseball team chipped away but came up just shy, 9-8, to split the midweek series with the Rebels at Earl Wilson Stadium.

Playing against its former Big West foe for the first time since 2002, UCSB (2-2) followed up a 13-run performance on Tuesday night with eight runs and 13 hits on Wednesday and have racked up 35 runs in four games to start the season.

Santa Barbara broke out the bats early once again, loading the bases in both the first and second innings. After stranding the runners in the first, the Gauchos brought two around to score on an Andrew Martinez sac fly and an Eric Yang RBI single.

UNLV got on the board with one run in the bottom of the second, but UCSB tacked on two more in the third to take a 4-1 lead. The Gauchos capitalized on a pair of Rebel errors in the inning, setting the stage for a Kyle Johnson RBI single and an RBI groundout from Ben Fariss.

A UCSB error hurt the Gauchos in the bottom half of the third as a miscue allowed two runs to score on one play, and kept the inning alive for a Max Smith two-run homerun to give UNLV a 5-4 lead. 

The Rebels extended their lead to 9-4 after another big four-run inning in the fifth with four hits including a bases clearing triple.

In the sixth, Jason Willow led off the inning with a single and with one-out, Tommy Jew tripled him home. Martinez followed with an RBI double in the very next at back to get two runs back making it a 9-6 ball game.

In the eighth, it was Jew and Martinez at it again in the beginning of the inning to spark a rally. After Jew led off with a double and advanced to third on a pass ball, Martinez walked, and a Yang sac fly brought in a run. Freshman Christian Kirtley showed his clutch gene with an RBI single up the middle and UCSB found itself within one run, 9-8.

With one out in the top of the ninth, the last chance for the Gauchos, Willow singled and proceeded to steal second to put the tying run in scoring position. After making it to third on a Tevin Mitchell groundout, Jew came to the plate with two outs. A dropped fly ball in foul territory by the right fielder kept the inning alive, but a groundout to the pitcher later in the at-bat would end the game.

Redshirt freshman Jorge Arellano Jr. made his UCSB debut with the start on Wednesday and went two innings, striking out two and allowing one run on two hits. Kevin Chandler (0-1) was tagged with the loss after entering in relief and allowing two runs. Shea Barry threw two innings, giving up three earned with two strikeouts, while Joshua Candau and Alex Patterson also made appearances. Patterson was lights out in the final two innings, not allowing a hit while striking out one.

Willow led the Gauchos at the dish with a 3-for-4 day, scoring twice, while Jew, Yang, Kirtley and Johnson all collected multi-hit games. Martinez and Yang led UCSB with two RBIs apiece.

Santa Barbara returns to Caesar Uyesaka this Friday, Feb. 22 for the first of a three-game home-opening series against Hartford at 2:00 p.m.