May 6, 2006
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -
UCSB (20-22, 6-8) used a home run, a single and five RBI off the bat of Chris Valaika to earn an 8-2 victory over No. 4 Cal State Fullerton (34-12, 11-3) on Saturday. With the win, UCSB evened the series at one game apiece headed into tomorrow's rubber match at 1 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
At the announcement of the starting lineups, Valaika was not in his normal three-hole in the batting order. Instead, head coach Bob Brontsema had the star shortstop bat second "in order to relax [Valaika] and get him more at bats." The move paid off. Valaika batted two-for-five in the game, but the two clutch hits came at crucial moments in the game, and could not have been more important in the 8-2 upset victory over Fullerton. The Valencia, Calif. native gave the Gauchos the 4-2 lead when he connected for a three-run homer in the seventh, and extended the lead with a two RBI single back up the box in the eighth. Junior Robbie Blauer also had a stellar day at the plate, finishing three-for-five with a double. Freshman Shane Carlson and junior Mario Lewis each batted two-for-four on the day. Carlson contributed a run scored and an RBI, and Lewis supplied one run scored as well.
Gaucho starter Jeff Braun lasted six innings against a powerful Cal State Fullerton offense, surrendering only two runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out five. Clayton Edwards threw one inning of scoreless baseball, giving up a single hit en route to his second win of the season. Junior Justin Segal once again finished the game on the mound for the Gauchos, dealing two perfect innings of relief and striking out a batter to earn his fifth save of the season.
Cal State Fullerton got on the board first for the second straight day with a run in the second. After two quick outs to start the inning, Evan McArthur doubled down the left field line to get things started for the Titans. Cory Vanderhook followed suit with a double of his own on the ensuing play to drive in McArthur and give Fullerton the early 1-0 advantage.
After shutting the Gauchos out in bottom half of the second, the Titans wasted not time adding to their lead with a leadoff homerun off the bat of Blake Davis to extend the lead to 2-0. For Davis, the homer was his second of the year.
UCSB narrowed the deficit to one run when it plated a single run in the sixth. Leadoff singles by Matt Emerick and Blauer got the ball rolling for the Gauchos in the inning. After a strikeout and a groundout left runners at the corners with two outs, Carlson came up with a clutch single to drive in Emerick and cut the lead to 2-1.
Edwards came out of the Gaucho bullpen and shut down the Titan offense before UCSB scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to take a 4-2 lead. Lewis reached on a throwing error by Davis at shortstop to start the inning. On the ensuing play, a bunt by catcher Chris McMurray was fielded by Lauren Gagnier on the mound, who turned and forced Lewis out at second on the play. After an Alden Carrithers walk put runners at first and second, Valaika connected for his eighth home run of the year to give UCSB the 4-2 advantage.
UCSB added four more insurance runs in the eighth before Segal shut the door on the Titans in the top of the ninth. Carlson got the inning started with a leadoff single to left field. Lewis followed with a single to right field to put runners at the corners with nobody out. After McMurray was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Fullerton summoned John Estes out of the bullpen to try to get out of the jam. Estes promptly walked Carrithers to force home the first run of the inning for the Gauchos. Valaika once again cashed in on an RBI situation with a two-run single back up the box to run the score to 7-2. With runners at the corners, Emerick hit a ground ball to second base that plated the fourth and final Gaucho run.
After the game, Brontsema stated that he was "really glad his players got what they deserved--a win over the fourth ranked team in the nation--for playing so hard and so well."
UCSB and Cal State Fullerton will face-off in the rubber match of this three-game series tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. Junior right-hander Brian Tracy is expected to be on the hill for the Gauchos. Senior Dustin Miller is slated to make the start for the Titans.