May 4, 2001
Santa Barbara, Calif. -
UC Santa Barbara's potent offense was quiet for three innings in Friday's Big West series opener with Long Beach State.
The 49ers led the Gauchos 2-0 entering the bottom half of the fourth, and starting pitcher Matt Paz had retired all nine batters he had faced through three innings of play. Then, the UCSB offense started getting a bit noisier.
UCSB used a leadoff double by Skip Schumaker and a pair of groundouts by Mike Kolbach and Chad Peshke to cut the lead in half at 2-1 after four. In the bottom of the fifth, they knotted the score on a solo home run to left field by shortstop Jeff Bannon, his fifth.
The fourth and fifth innings were just the tip of the iceberg.
In the sixth and seventh inning, the Gauchos pounded Paz and relievers Russel Rohlicek and Joey Pace, scoring nine runs and breaking open a game that seemed to have the makings of a classic pitchers battle.
The Gaucho sixth started quietly enough with Kolbach fouling out to third baseman Edgar Varela. Peshke and third baseman Dave Molidor followed with back-to-back singles, putting runners on first and second. After first baseman Tyler Von Schell popped out to second, Bannon struck again, bouncing one off the glove of second baseman Kaulana Kuhaulua and into right field. Peshke, who was running with two outs, came around to score, breaking the tie and giving UCSB a 3-2 lead.
While the Gauchos scored the tiebreaker with some seeing-eye basehits, the one that broke it open was anything but. Left fielder Jed Stringham belted a Paz curveball over the fence in right center field, a three run shot, giving UCSB a comfortable 6-2 lead. The roundtripper was Stringham's 12th of the year.
In the seventh inning, the comfortable lead became luxurious. Rolicek relieved Paz to start the inning and he was plagued with control problems. He walked right fielder Ryan Spilborghs to open the inning and then wild pitched him to second base. Spilborghs then advanced to third when catcher Bryan Kennedy threw the ball into center field. Schumaker walked to put runners on first and third. Another wild pitch scored Spilborghs and moved Schumaker to second. One pitch later, Schumaker was going to third on the third wild pitch of the inning. When Kolbach was walked to put two runners on, 49er head coach Dave Snow had seen enough, and Pace was summoned.
Pace immediately walked Peshke to load the bases. Molidor hit a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Schumaker to make the score 8-2. Von Schell then collected the first and only hit of the inning, a three run home run to right field, making it 11-2 Gauchos. For Von Schell, the home run was his 17th of the season, tying the school record first set by Greg Vella in 1986.
UCSB went scoreless the rest of the way, but there was reason for some excitement in the eighth when Spilborghs led off with a line drive single to right field. The base hit by the Santa Barbara High School graduate extended his hitting streak to a school record 24 straight games. Spilborghs broke the previous record of 22 (Jeff Antoon in 1991) in a non-conference win over the 49ers on Tuesday.
Long Beach tallied its final two runs in the top of the ninth when right fielder Paul Macaluso followed a two-out error by belting a two-run home run. Both runs were unearned.
UCSB starter James Garcia overcame a shaky start and settled down in a big way. After allowing a pair of runs in the top of the second, he allowed no runs and just three hits over the next five innings. He wound up going the distance to improve to 9-1 with a 2.62 ERA on the season. The win was Garcia's eighth in a row and he is now 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in Big West play.
Offensively, UCSB was paced by Molidor, Bannon and Stringham who each had a pair of hits. With his double in the fourth, Schumaker has now collected at least one hit in 42 out of 45 games this season. The 49ers were led by shortstop Bobby Crosby who had a pair of hits, including a double. No other Long Beach player had more than one hit.
The win improves the Gauchos to 34-11 overall and 8-2 in the Big West. They have won six in a row and eight out of nine. The 49ers drop to 29-17 overall and 6-4 in league.
Santa Barbara and Long Beach play the second game of their three game series on Saturday afternoon beginning at 1:00 p.m. at UCSB's Caesar Uyesaka Stadium The teams meet in the finale on Sunday, also at 1:00 p.m.