April 16, 2004
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Junior right-fielder Matt Wilkerson's second grand slam of the year was not enough to lift UC Santa Barbara past UC Riverside as the Highlanders survived 8-6 and took game one of this weekend's three-game Big West Conference series at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Riverside used three home runs and nine hits to send the Gauchos to only their third loss in the last 15 games. UCSB drops to 23-13 overall and 1-3 in the Big West. UCR is now 22-15 with a 2-2 conference mark.
Gaucho right-hander Michael Martin (8-2) had his worst outing of the year as he suffered his second consecutive loss after beginning the season with eight wins in his first nine starts. The sophomore only last one-plus innings, allowing six runs on three hits, including two round trippers. He walked three and hit three batters while striking out two of the twelve hitters he faced.
The Highlanders scored one run in the first when Louie Hernandez' two-out RBI single scored Matt Cunningham, who had reached after receiving a bases on balls.
But UCSB struck back in its half of the inning as it loaded the bases with the help of two walks and an error. After designated hitter Taylor Vogt struck out, Wilkerson stroked his fourth home run of the year over the wall down the right field line. The opposite field shot was Wilkerson's 24th career home run, which now gives him sole posession of the ninth spot on UCSB's all-time home run list. Wilkerson finished 1-for-3 with four RBI.
Martin, however, could not make the 4-1 lead stand up as he surrendered five more runs in the second without recording an out. After walking the lead-off batter, nine-hole hitter Aaron Grant socked his second home run of the year to bring UCR to within one. After another hit by pitch and a walk, third baseman Tony Festa launched a shot to left center field which gave the Highlanders a lead they would not relinquish.
UCR starting pitcher Hayley Winter, lasted just 4.2 innings, and was relieved by Marc Rzepczynski and Jaymie Torres, who combined to allow just four hits and one run over the games final 4.1 innings. Rzepczynski picked up his first win of the year after facing just eight batters from fourth through the sixth innings.
The Gaucho bullpen fared even better as junior Alex McRobbie, senior Ivan Ramirez, and junior Nate Holguin combined to throw the final eight innings for UCSB, allowing just two runs on six hits. McRobbie went four strong innings for his longest outing of the year.
Riverside added a run in the third and an extremely important insurance run in the ninth with the Gauchos down by just a run, 7-6. With Ramirez cruising through his first three innings of work without allowing a hit, UCR catcher Nick Salotti belted a home run over the right field wall to give UCR a two-run cushion heading into the final half inning of the contest.
UCSB stranded eleven runners in the game and left the bases loaded in the eighth after already putting one run across.
Gaucho left-fielder Bill Rowe led UCSB hitters with two base-knocks and finished 2-for-4.
The Gauchos and Highlanders will return to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium on Saturday at 1 p.m. for game two of the series. Gaucho right-hander Andy Graham is set to face UCR's A.J. Shappi.