No. 14 Gauchos Outduel No. 15 UC Irvine in Series Opener

Thomas Rowan (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Thomas Rowan (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Thomas Rowan hit two home runs, Ben Brecht won his seventh game of the year and the No. 14 UC Santa Barbara baseball team took down No. 15 UC Irvine 4-1 in the opening game of a pivotal Big West Conference series on Friday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

UCSB (25-5, 3-1 Big West) took over first place in the Big West with the win and improved to 15-1 at home and 10-0 in series openers, while UCI dropped to 21-7 and 5-2 in conference play.

It was a classic pitcher's duel for much of the game, with UCSB starter Ben Brecht (7-0) stymieing the Anteaters for 7.2 innings, allowing just three hits and one earned run while walking two and striking out eight. UCI's ace, Andre Pallante (5-3), an All-American from a season ago, struck out eight over seven innings while allowing two runs on six hits.

Two of those hits off Pallante came in the first inning when Tommy Jew hit a two-out triple to right center field and came around to score after Rowan singled in the very next at bat.

With the score tied 1-1, Rowan hit a towering solo home run, his sixth of the year, in the third inning to put Santa Barbara ahead for good, 2-1.

In the top of the eighth inning, the Anteaters nearly tied the game on a Brendan Brooks shot to left center, but Jew raced over and leaped over the wall to rob the home run in stunning fashion. 

In the bottom half of the frame, Rowan hit another solo shot to left to extend the Gauchos' lead. Armani Smith followed with his sixth triple of the season to the gap in left center, and Andrew Martinez drove him home with a double down the right field line to make it 4-1.

Michael McGreevy came on for the four-out save, allowing just one hit while picking up his fifth save of the season.

Rowan finished 3-for-4 with two home runs and three RBIs to lead UCSB at the dish and Martinez went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

UCSB and UCI are back in action tomorrow, Saturday, Apr. 13 at 2:00 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.