May 25, 2008
IRVINE, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara's fantastic regular season came to a close Sunday afternoon at Anteater Ballpark with a hard fought 2-0 loss to UC Irvine. The Gauchos battled tooth and nail, and were able to amass nine hits in total, but were unable to plate a run. Senior southpaw Chuck Huggins outlasted Anteater starter Daniel Bibona, but single runs in the third and the eighth for Irvine did in the Gauchos.
UCSB finishes the 2008 regular season campaign with a 35-21 overall record, and a 14-10 Big West Conference mark, while UCI improved to 38-16 overall, with an identical 14-10 BWC record.
Both Huggins and Bibona were on from the start, as the first run of the game wasn't scored until the bottom of the third inning.
Anteater second baseman Josh Tavelli led off the bottom of the third with a double to left field. Eric Deragisch followed with a sacrifice bunt, allowing Tavelli to advance all the way to third base. In the ensuing at-bat, catcher Aaron Lowenstein laid down a sacrifice bunt to Gaucho first baseman Eric Oliver, allowing Tavelli to score the first run of the game. After three, UCI held a 1-0 lead.
Huggins scattered four hits over the next four innings, before giving way to Mike Ford. Ford, the Gauchos usual Friday ace, was unable to pitch the series opener due to sickness, but took the ball from Huggins in the eighth hoping to preserve a 1-0 game.
Ben Orloff greeted Ford rudely, with a lead off single up the middle. The Anteaters continued with the small-ball approach, as Jeff Cusick advanced Orloff to second with a sacrifice bunt. With Brock Bardeen pinch-hitting for Tony Asaro, Orloff was able to advance to third base on a wild pitch from Ford. Again, it wasn't a base hit that scored the Anteater run from third, but another sacrifice fly, this time off the bat of Bardeen. Jason Roenicke then came on in relief of Ford, striking out Dillon Bell to end the eighth-inning threat.
Anteater closer Eric Pettis surrendered a base hit before retiring the Gauchos in order in the top of the ninth, securing the 2-0 UCI victory.
Ironically, in a season where the Gaucho offense average nearly 7.5 runs scored per game, UCSB couldn't plate a run on the final day of the season. Sunday's game was as close a contest as the Gauchos have played in all year, but unfortunately UCSB was on the wrong side of the 2-0 decision.
Four Irvine pitchers combined to shut out the Gauchos, something that UCSB had experienced only two times prior to today's game.
While UCSB outscored their opponents 413-to-290 on the year, the most telling stat of the day is that the Gauchos dropped to 0-8 when scoring two or fewer runs.
Even with the Gauchos losing two of three to the Anteaters this weekend, UCSB still has a shot at an at-large postseason bid. With UC Riverside losing to Cal Poly, and UC Davis losing to Cal State Northridge, UCSB sits in a three-way tie for third place.
UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and UCSB all have identical 14-10 Big West Conference records. UCI holds a tiebreaker over UCSB, while UCSB holds a tiebreaker over UCR. With both Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton already guaranteed postseason bids, it will be up the NCAA selection committee to choose another Big West team. In addition, UC Davis may still be in the running with a 13-11 BWC record as well.
Regardless of whether or not UCSB gets an at-large bid, the 2008 campaign will be viewed as a major success for the Gauchos. Picked to finish sixth in the Big West in a pre-season coach's poll, the Gauchos have exceeded the expectations of many.
The post-season selection show airs at 9:30 a.m. on ESPN tomorrow morning.