UCSB Bats Come Alive in 12-4 Win Over USD

Photo by Tony Mastres
Photo by Tony Mastres

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – After being held to just four run in last Tuesday's matchup, the Gauchos offense pounded the University of San Diego pitching staff to the tune of a dozen runs in a 12-4 victory over the Toreros on Wednesday afternoon.

The Gauchos – winners of three of their last four games – improved to 21-18 on the season, while USD fell to 25-16 and snapped a five game winning streak.

The bottom part of the order did the majority of the damage for UCSB. Catcher Jackson Morrow had his finest day with the bat as a Gaucho, going 3-4 with four runs driven in, two of which came with his seventh inning homer, the first of his career. Center fielder Cameron Newell added a pair of hits while scoring a pair of runs and third baseman Devon Gradford – making his first collegiate start – reached base in each of his three plate appearances while scoring twice.

UC Santa Barbara jumped out to early lead in the second inning. After Tyler Kuresa reached on an error to start the inning, the Gauchos mounted a two-out rally, with Newell, Gradford, and Morrow knocking three consecutive singles, the latter two driving in runs and making the score 3-0.

The Gauchos' three-run lead was a tenuous one, as starter Andrew Vasquez struggled with his control from the very start of the game. The sophomore lefty issued six free passes and hit a batter in his three-plus innings on the bump, but allowed just one hit to limit the damage at two runs, one of which was unearned.

Vasquez was knocked out of the game in the fourth inning when he allowed the first two runners to reach base. In fact, the USD leadoff man reached in each of the first eight innings of the game.

Freshman righty Dillon Tate came on to relieve Vasquez, and stranded both runners he inherited. After getting an out on a sac bunt, Tate got groundouts from Dillon Checkal – who was actually retired twice, he fouled out to first baseman Tyler Kuresa before the umpires ruled that Kuresa was out of play – and Lucas Hagberg to escape the inning with no runs.

Tate couldn't manage the same fate in the fifth, as Kris Bryant led off the inning with his 21st home run of the year to knot the score at 3-3.

Junior lefty Cameron Cuneo then had an impressive appearance under pressure, getting a line drive double-play from the first batter he faced to leave the fifth inning with the score still tied at 3-3.

That tie would not hold up for long, as the Gauchos put up another three-spot in the bottom half of the fifth, with Joey Epperson and Woody Woodward notching RBI singles.

Cuneo would remain in the game after his escape act in the fifth, throwing four full innings while allowing just three hits and one run, a seventh inning homer to DH Dillon Haupt. The Thousand Oaks, Calif. native picked up his first win of the year and second in his career with his 53-pitch outing.

The Gauchos tacked on six insurance runs in the bottom of half of the seventh, all of which came with two outs. Of UCSB's 12 runs, nine came with two down. A two-run, bases loaded single from Newell got the action started, while another run would come around when USD catcher Austin Green threw a ball into center field attempting to throw out Newell on a stolen base.

An infield single from Ryan Clark would bring across the speedy center fielder, and then Morrow put an exclamation point on the inning with a two-run blast that cleared the left field wall just below the scoreboard.

Toreros starting pitcher Louie Lechich got tagged with the loss after allowing six runs over 5 2/3 innings pitched. However, only three of those six runs were earned.

Next, the Gauchos will drive south to take on the UC Riverside Highlanders in a three-game Big West series. First pitch on Friday night is set for 6:00 p.m.