Gauchos Soar Past Hawks in Home Opener

Armani Smith celebrates after crushing a solo homerun to centerfield on Friday. (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Armani Smith celebrates after crushing a solo homerun to centerfield on Friday. (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The home opener for UC Santa Barbara baseball was worth the wait. After having its scheduled opener relocated last week due to inclement weather, the Gauchos showed off in front of their home crowd with a 10-5 win over Hartford at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium on Friday afternoon.

Santa Barbara (3-2) has now scored at least seven runs through its first five games – the first UCSB baseball team to do so since 1990 – while averaging nine runs a contest. Hartford, meanwhile, falls to 0-1 in their first game of the season.

Junior lefty Ben Brecht started on the hill for the Gauchos and struck out seven in his four innings of work while allowing three earned runs on six hits with one walk.

Trailing 1-0 entering the bottom of the second, Armani Smith clobbered the first pitch he saw well over the 405' mark in dead center field to tie the game.

The Gauchos were right back at it in the third inning with three straight singles from Tevin Mitchell, Tommy Jew and Andrew Martinez to set the stage for Eric Yang. The junior catcher did not disappoint, lacing a double down the right field line to clear the bases and came around to score after an errant throw from the Hartford catcher attempting to nab Yang at third.

The 5-1 lead was short lived, however, as the Hawks battled back with three runs on four singles and a walk in the top of the fourth.

UCSB proceeded to score over the next three innings to separate itself on the scoreboard. An RBI triple from Jew made it a 6-4 game in the fourth and an RBI single from Cole Mueller in the fifth continued to extend the Gaucho lead.

Santa Barbara broke it open with three runs in the sixth, taking advantage of a wild Hartford bullpen, and getting an RBI groundout from Christian Kirtley and an RBI single from Jason Willow.

Freshman Michael McGreevy (1-0) picked up his first collegiate win after tossing five dominant innings of relief. The San Clemente, Calif. native struck out five while giving up just one run on two hits with no walks.

It was an all-around team effort at the plate, as seven different Gauchos collected hits while six knocked in at least one RBI. Smith finished 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI, Mitchell went 2-for-3 with two runs and Jew and Yang both went 2-for-5. Yang led UCSB with three RBIs and scored twice along with Smith, Martinez and Mitchell.

The second game of the three-game series between UCSB and Hartford will take place tomorrow, Feb. 23 at 2:00 p.m.