Ninth Inning Rally Lifts Cal Poly Past Gauchos in Season Finale, 5-3
May 27, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - An up and down season for UC Santa Barbara came to an end Sunday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, as Cal Poly beat the host Gauchos 5-3 completing their three game weekend sweep. The Gauchos finished the season with an overall record of 23-31 and 9-12 in the Big West Conference, while the Mustangs ended on a high note improving their record to 32-24 and 13-8 in Big West play.
In a game the Gauchos could have easily had, the old baseball adage "walks kill" rang true. In the top of the ninth, with the score tied 3-3, senior Steve Morlock retired the first two batters he faced, but proceeded to load the bases on three consecutive walks. Justin Segal, the team's most reliable reliever, was brought to get the Gauchos out of the jam. On a 2-2 pitch Mustangs DH Luke Yoder hit a high chopper in between Segal and Gauchos shortstop Shane Carlson. On a do or die effort, Carlson barehanded the ball, but misfired to first as his throw skipped passed the glove of first baseman Robbie Blauer and went dribbling down the right field line. After two Mustang runs had already crossed the plate, center fielder Logan Schafer rounded third and was tagged out in a rundown to end the inning. After the dust settled the Yoder's infield single and the throwing error by Carlson left the Gauchos down 5-3 heading into the bottom half of the ninth.
A comeback wasn't in the cards for the Gauchos as Cal Poly closer Evan Reed slammed the door, retiring the side in order for his eleventh save of the season.
In his last start in a Gaucho uniform senior Jeff Braun dazzled the Mustangs going seven strong innings, giving up only three runs on four hits, while striking out five. Braun's only misstep occurred in the eighth inning. After walking leadoff batter Pat Pezet, Schafer came to the plate in a bunt situation. With Cal Poly trailing 2-1, Schafer ideally wanted to move Pezet into scoring position by way of the sacrifice bunt. After two missed bunt attempts, Schafer unloaded on Braun's 2-2 offering and sent the pitch just fair over the right field wall to give the Mustangs a 3-2 lead.
After the Schafer homer in the top half of the eighth, the Gauchos rebounded to tie the score in the bottom half. Senior right fielder Mario Lewis led off with a flare single to right field. He moved to second when Cal Poly starter Thomas Eager dropped the ball while on the pitching rubber, a balk. One out later, senior catcher Matt Anderson floated an a soft liner up the middle that was knocked down by the Mustang shortstop, but he had no play. Lewis stopped at third and scored on a sacrifice fly by sophomore shortstop Shane Carlson.
The Mustangs got on the board in the top of the first courtesy of a hit batsmen, a double, and an RBI groundout by third basemen Brent Morel.
The Gauchos countered in the fifth inning with two runs of their own, on a controversial call by the home plate umpire. With Patrick Rose on third and Blauer on second, left fielder Mike Zuanich hit a nubber up the middle of the diamond. Zuanich would beat out the throw from Mustang shortstop Kyle Smith, but because the play was so slow to develop Blauer saw an opportunity to score another run, half way in between third and home Blauer found himself running into a dead end as the throw from Mustang first baseman Adam Buschini to catcher Joshua Thomas was already there. Blauer slid in between Thomas' legs, but before his foot reached the plate it looked as though he hit Thomas' glove in the process. The umpire called Blauer safe and the Cal Poly bench erupted. Mustang head coach Larry Lee came storming out of the dugout to argue the call and protect his catcher, but to no avail as Thomas was ejected. Lee returned to the dugout and the damage was done as the Gauchos took the lead 2-1.
The Mustang ace and a likely high draft pick in June's Major League Baseball draft, Eager got the win (11-3). He did have control problems all day, going eight innings, with three earned runs, walking a season high eight batters in the process.
Morlock took the loss to fall to 3-7 on the season.
Blauer took a .399 batting average into the day's game, but his 1-3 effort, with two walks would leave him at .398, two points shy of being the sixth Gaucho hitter to hit .400 in a single season (the last to do so was Jared Schumaker in 2001). Blauer's hit, a double, did extend his season-ending hitting streak to 22 games. He opened the year by hitting in 23 in a row and in all, the Huntington Beach, Calif., native hit in 51 of 54 games in 2007.
The Gauchos will bid farewell to twelve departing seniors: Matt Anderson, Justin Aspegren, Robbie Blauer, Jeff Braun, Bryan Fleming, Mario Lewis, Michael Martin, Matt McColgan, Steve Morlock, Justin Segal, Clayton Shank, and Brian Tracy.