April 21, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara (17-19) pulled out a close one on Saturday, hanging on for a 6-5 victory over conference adversary and nationally ranked UC Irvine (27-11-1). The Gauchos, who have now won six out of eight games overall, improved to 5-3 in a very balanced Big West conference, while the 18th-ranked Anteaters dropped to 6-5.
Hard throwing freshman Mike Ford had a strong outing for the Gauchos, going six complete innings to pick up his second victory of the year. The freshman allowed five hits, two earned runs, and struck out six. He is now 2-1 on the year.
With a 6-4 lead, head coach Bob Brontsema didn't want to take any chances with the very potent Anteaters lineup and brought in senior closer Justin Segal in the seventh inning. Segal pitched three innings, surrendering one run and posted his team-high seventh save of the season. The senior allowed seven hits, but did an excellent job of pitching his way out trouble in the second game of this weekend's three-game set.
Junior Wes Etheridge lost for just the second time this year, falling to 9-2. He went 4,1 innings, allowed five runs on eleven hits, while striking out three. Dylan Axelrod came on in the fifth, and allowed a run in 3.2 and fanned six.
Junior left fielder Mike Zuanich led the way for the Gauchos, going 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. Center fielder Chris Fox had two hits and scored what turned out to be the winning run when he stole home on a double steal in the bottom of the sixth inning. Senior first baseman Robbie Blauer, who came into the game hitting .396, went 2-for-2 with two walks, two runs scored, and a stolen base. He is yet to be retired in eight plate appearances this series. Catcher Chris McMurray had a pair of RBI singles, while right fielder Mario Lewis had two hits and an RBI, and third baseman Patrick Rose also chipped in with two hits.
Pre-season All-American Cody Cipriano led the way for the Anteaters with two hits and two RBI's, while Ben Orloff, Bryan Peterson, Matt Morris, and Aaron Lowenstein all had two hits at the plate. Cipriano joined Morris and Holliday, becoming the third Anteater this season to drive in 30 runs.
The scoring got going in the top half of third on a pair of RBI hits by Orloff and Cipriano, giving the Anteaters a 3-0 lead. The Gauchos came right back with two in the bottom half of the inning on three consecutive singles by Rose, Blauer, and Zuanich to plate the first run. Designated hitter Cody Dee then hit into a double play before McMurray knocked in Santa Barbara's second run on a well hit single to center field.
Irvine then added a run in the top of the fifth on a Cipriano sacrifice fly.
Once more, the Gauchos came right back in their half of the frame. Rose again led off the inning with a single, Blauer walked, and Zuanich singled to center for his second RBI of the day. McMurray followed with his second RBI, picking up Blauer on a single to right. Lewis then drove in a run, giving the Gauchos the 5-4 lead.
In the sixth, Fox led off with a ground rule double over center fielder Ollie Linton's head. He advanced to third on a Rose groundout before Blauer walked again, setting up the most exciting play of the afternoon. Blauer stole second, getting caught in a pickle, while Fox came home and beat catcher Lowenstein's tag at the plate for the double steal and eventual game-winning run.
The Anteaters added one in the seventh and then loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the ninth but Segal got Linton to fly out to center, as the Gauchos held on for the thrilling 6-5 victory.
UCSB and UCI wrap up the series Sunday at 1:00 p.m., weather permitting.