April 18, 2008
Santa Barbara, Calif. - Mike Ford pitched the first complete game of his young career, leading UC Santa Barbara (25-11) past University of Southern California (19-17), 6-4 Friday afternoon at Casesar Uyesaka Stadium. Ford (5-2) allowed four runs on seven hits, while striking out eight and walking only two en route to the first complete game of any Gaucho starter this year. Mike Zuanich's RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh broke a 4-4 tie, and the Gauchos would not look back from there.
Both starters were on early as the first hit of the ballgame came in the bottom of the third inning when second baseman Steve Cook led off the inning with a triple into the right center field gap. Right fielder Brian Gump followed by grounding a ball to Trojan first baseman Derek Perren. Perren fielded the ball a foot away from the first base, but decided to make a play at the plate, as Steve Cook broke from third on the grounder. Perren's throw sailed over the head of Trojan catcher Robert Stock, as Cook scored for the first Gaucho run of the game.
USC countered in the top of the fourth, as shortstop Grant Green's leadoff home run to right center tied the game, 1-1. After winning Pac-10 Player of the Week honors last week, Green continued his hot streak, hitting his second home run in the last three games, and fourth in the last five. Hector Rabago followed with a two-run shot of his own, launching a home run over the left field wall to give the Trojans a 3-1 lead after three and a half.
UCSB scored a run in the bottom of the fourth courtesy of Gunnar Terhune's RBI double down the left field line. Terhune's double scored Shane Carlson from second to bring the Gauchos within one, 3-2. With runners on second and third and two down, Trojan starter Tommy Milone induced Cook to pop up to short to get of the jam.
Milone (5-2) went six innings, allowing four runs on six hits, while striking out six and walking four.
The Trojans refused to succumb to the Gaucho push, scoring another run in the top half of the sixth inning. After singling up the middle to leadoff the inning, Green advanced to second on Perren's infield groundout. With one out, Green stole third base and scored on an overthrow from Gaucho catcher Chris McMurray to put the Trojans ahead, 4-2.
Ford would not allow another run the rest of the way, facing only one batter of the minimum over the final three frames.
The Gauchos scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth to knot things up. With the bases loaded and one out, Cook grounded a ball to Trojan third baseman Billy Pinkerton. Pinkerton threw to second for the force out, but the turn to first was late, as Carlson scored on the play. The Gauchos tied the game in the following at-bat as Gump singled to right field, scoring McMurray from third. It would be all the Gauchos could muster, as Milone stranded the go-ahead run on third, inducing Fox to fly out to right to end the threat. After six innings of play, the Gauchos and Trojans were tied, 4-4.
The tie wouldn't last long as the Gauchos scored twice in the bottom of the seventh off Trojan reliever Daniel Cooper. Left fielder Mike Zuanich continued his torrid hitting streak, pounding an RBI tie-breaking triple to deep center field, scoring Eric Oliver all the way from first. Carlson's sacrifice fly to center in the ensuing at-bat scored Zuanich from third to put the Gauchos ahead, 6-4.
UCSB would not relinquish the lead as Ford willed his way to the win. After walking the first batter he faced in the top of the ninth, the Gaucho coaching staff showed their faith in Ford, allowing the sophomore to finish what he started. Ford induced Roskopf to ground into a fielders choice for the first out of the inning. With a runner on first and one down, the Scottsdale, Ariz., native struck out Hector Rabago for the second out of the inning. Ford then got Stock to fly out to center to end the game. With the ball tightly secured in center fielder Chris Fox's glove, Ford pumped his fist in elation, having successfully pitched his first complete game.
Ford lowered his ERA to 2.79 while improving his impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio to a perfect two-to-one, 54-27. Ford has now pitched at least six innings in eight of his nine starts, and eight or more innings in three of his starts.
Gump led the Gauchos with a 2-for-5, two RBI effort. A game after hitting three home runs, Zuanich went 1-for-4 with one run scored and a crucial tie-breaking RBI. Carlson went 1-for-2 with two runs scored and one RBI.
The Gauchos resume play tomorrow as they travel to Los Angeles, Calif., to play game two of the three game series against USC at 2:00 p.m. at Dedeaux Field.