Feb. 24, 2009
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Wearing pink hats and sweatbands to help raise awareness of breast cancer, UC Santa Barbara hosted ninth-ranked UCLA on Tuesday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. After overcoming an early three-run deficit and holding on for a 7-6 win, the Gauchos might consider staying with the pink gear.
UCSB was wearing pink in solidarity with the women's basketball program, which had its "Pink Zone" night on Tuesday night at the Thunderdome.
The Gauchos (3-1) weren't tickled pink in the top of the first inning as the Bruins (2-2) jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a walk and back-to-back home runs by first baseman Casey Haerther and designated hitter Cody Decker. But starting pitcher Mike Ford (1-0) settled down after that, allowing just one more run before leaving after five innings.
UCSB tied the score in the second inning when third baseman Robby Cummings connected for his first home run of the season, a three-run shot to dead center field that also scored shortstop Shane Carlson and Matt Valaika. The Gauchos took their first lead just one inning later when center fielder Brian Gump belted his third home run of the season leading off the third inning.
UCLA made it 4-4 in the top of the fourth. With one out second baseman Eddie Murray doubled down the left field line. After shortstop Niko Gallego was hit by a pitch, left fielder Justin Uribe lined a single to right, scoring Murray who was running on the pitch.
The Gauchos chased Bruin starter Matt Grace in the bottom of the fifth. Right fielder Mark Haddow started things with an infield single and went to second on a sacrifice by Gump. One pitch later Haddow stole third with a head-first slide. Left fielder Gunnar Terhune dropped a single into right field to break the tie and make it 5-4 UCSB. UCLA pulled Grace after Terhune's single, replacing him with Garett Claypool, who got the first batter he faced, Eric Oliver, to fly out. Claypool, however, wasn't quite as effective with the next hitter, Carlson, as the Gaucho cleanup hitter hit his third home run of the season, a high shot over the screen in left field, giving his team a 7-4 lead.
In the top of the sixth, Ford gave way to reliever David Meals. UCLA's Murray greeted Meals with a home run to left narrowing the lead to 7-5. After Gallego struck out swinging, the Bruins used an infield single by Uribe and consecutive singles to left by Casey Haerther and Decker to make it a one-run game, 7-6. But Gabe Cohen hit a hard grounder to Carlson who turned it into a 6-4-3 double play.
The teams were scoreless the rest of the way, but the Gauchos needed an outstanding defensive play in the top of the seventh to prevent a UCLA rally. With runners on first and second and nobody out, third baseman Tyler Rahmatulla hit a sharp grounder to his counterpart, Cummings, who took the ball to the bag and relayed to Valaika for a 5-4 double play. Murray popped out to end the inning.
After Meals hit Gallego with a pitch to open the eighth inning, the junior transfer from West Valley College retired six straight batters to end the game, earning his first save.
UCSB will travel to the Midwest this weekend to play in The Dairy Queen Baseball Classic at the University of Minnesota. The Gauchos will play the host Golden Gophers on Friday evening at 6:35 p.m. (CST) in the Metrodome. On Saturday, they will take-on Hawaii at Noon (CST), and on Sunday they play Washington at 11:00 a.m. (CST).