SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The Gauchos hit a speedbump on Saturday afternoon in their attempt to jump out to the school's best start since 1996, losing both games of a doubleheader with the visiting University of San Francisco.
The Gauchos jumped out to an early lead in game one, but were bested by a wind-aided home run ball off the bat of USF's Justin Maffei that gave the Dons a 4-1 victory. Game two was not nearly as close, as the visitors would score in each of the first six innings en route to an 11-5 victory.
With the losses, UCSB falls to an even 3-3, while USF improves to 3-4.
Freshman lefty Justin Jacome got the ball to start the first game for the Gauchos, and he did not disappoint despite eventually getting tacked with the loss. The Redlands, Calif. native gave up just five hits and three runs in 6.1 innings pitched, striking out five batters and walking three. Jacome cruised through the first four innings, allowing a runner to reach second base just twice over that span.
Meanwhile, the Gauchos were able to jump out in front in the third inning. Sophomore second baseman Woody Woodward was hit on the back by the first pitch of the inning. After advancing to second on softly hit grounder from freshman right fielder Andrew Calica, Woodward was able to score when sophomore center fielder Cameron Newell stroked a 2-2 pitch through the right side for an RBI single.
The Dons would tie the game in the fifth, as third baseman Bob Cruikshank doubled down the left field foul line and scored two batters later when Justin Maffei doubled himself.
Cruikshank would strike again in the seventh, leading off the inning with another double, this one reaching the right-center field fence. After a sacrifice bunt and a walk, UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts brought in freshman right hander Connor Baits, ending Jacome's day. Leadoff hitter Justin Maffei greeted Baits with what appeared to be a routine fly ball to right field, but on a blustery day at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium turned into a wall-breaching home run.
Senior right hander Jared Wilson would finish the game for the Gauchos, throwing two shutout innings, giving up just one hit and striking out one.
Alex Balog earned the victory for the Dons, going seven strong innings, allowing just four hits and one run while striking out four. Adam Cimber locked down his first save of the year, allowing no baserunners over his two shutout innings.
Following a short intermission, the two squads returned to action for game two. USF immediately made an impression on UCSB starter Kenny Chapman as Justin Maffei doubled down the right field line to start the game. Maffei ended the day going 4-7 with six RBIs and four extra base hits. Designated hitter plated Maffei with an RBI single to give the Dons a 1-0 lead.
USF would continue to thrive offensively, getting runs across in each of the next two innings to go up 4-1. Chapman would go just two innings, giving up four hits, two earned runs, two strikeouts, and one walk.
The Gauchos came up with their biggest rally in the fourth inning. With two outs and nobody on, double play partners Miles Parker and Brandon Trinkwon earned back-to-back walks. Sophomore first baseman Tyler Kuresa followed that up with well struck double down the left field line, scoring Miles. Trinkwon would go on to score on a wild pitch. Woodward, playing left field in the the second game, lined a ball up the middle in the next at bat, but an impressive backhand play and an even more impressive cross-body throw from USF second baseman Jason Mahood snuffed out the UCSB rally with the score at 4-3.
That was as close as the Gauchos would get, as the Dons dinged up the Gauchos bullpen to the tune of seven runs over the next four innings. UCSB would get two more runs across in the fifth to chase starter Christian Cecilio, but USF reliever Haden Hinkle would shut down the Gauchos from there, getting his first victory of the year via five shutout innings, giving up five hits, walking none, and striking out a pair.
UCSB freshman righty Dylan Hecht impressed in the latter stages of game two, striking out seven batters — including the first four he faced — over three shutout innings. The Pleasanton, Calif. native allowed just one hit, and only had his strikeout streak snapped by a batter's interference call on a stolen base attempt in the eighth inning.
On Saturday, Woody Woodward led the way with the bat for the Gauchos, going 4-7 and scoring twice. Kuresa also contributed, going 3-9 with three RBIs, while Cameron Newell made noise from the leadoff spot with three hits and a run scored.
The Gauchos will try to salvage a series split on Sunday afternoon, as they will take on the Dons in the series finale at 1:00 p.m. Links for that game, including live stats and audio feeds, can be accessed from the UCSB schedule page.