SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — After appearing in two games over the weekend at Texas, UCSB's sophomore left-hander Greg Mahle was on a strict pitch limit for his Tuesday start against No. 17 Notre Dame. That pitch limit might have been the only thing standing between the Fighting Irish and a shutout, as Mahle delived four sparkling innings on Tuesday afternoon to lead his team to a 7-2 win at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
The win snapped a three game losing skid for the Gauchos, who improved to 9-7. It was UCSB's first win over a ranked opponent since they topped Big West conference-mates Cal State Fullerton on May 12, 2012. Notre Dame, who impressed with a 2-1 performance at the Dodgertown Classic in Los Angeles over the weekend, fell to 10-4 with the loss.
Mahle established his presence early in the game, getting the first two Fighting Irish batters to strike out swinging, which would be a common outcome throughout Mahle's outing. Mahle would mow through the Notre Dame lineup, facing the minimum over his four inning outing. He allowed just one baserunner — a third inning infield single — but promptly picked off the runner during the next at bat.
Mahle struck out six batters in the game, all of them swinging. He left the game after getting Notre Dame's No. 3 hitter, Eric Jagielo, to meekly pop out to shortstop to end the fourth inning. Even though he pitched just four innings, Mahle still earned the win to improve his record to 3-1 since UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts declared Tuesday a "staff day," functionally making each Gaucho hurler a relief pitcher.
After Mahle hit the showers, the Gauchos offense — already up 1-0 by that point after Cameron Newell walked with the bases loaded in the first inning — responded by putting up four runs in the fifth inning to put the game comfortably in their hands.
Sophomore third baseman Peter Maris ignited the rally by working a five pitch walk to lead off the inning. Junior second baseman Parker Miles then ripped a double down the left field to score Maris. Leadoff hitter Luke Swenson would later stroke a one-out single before junior shortstop Brandon Trinkwon bounced into a fielder's choice. Notre Dame head coach Mik Aoki then dipped into the bullpen, summoning Donnie Hissa to relieve starter Nick McCarty. Hissa promptly gave up a triple to first baseman Tyler Kuresa, who launched a 1-0 pitch into the right field corner to plate Swenson and Trinkwon. Freshman designated hitter Robby Nesovic capped off the rally by cashing in Kuresa with an RBI single through the left side, making the score 5-0 at the end of the fourth inning.
McCarty, who was making his first collegiate start, would end up with the loss for the Fighting Irish, dropping his record to 2-3. The freshman righty had control problems throughout, walking four batters in just 3.2 innings while allowing four earned runs, five hits, and striking out one.
The Gauchos would tack on a run in both the fifth and seventh innings off of an RBI single from Swenson and a Parker Miles sacrifice fly, respectively.
Though the Gauchos bullpen did a solid job collectively of relieving Mahle, giving up just two runs over five innings, there were some adventurous moments.
In the sixth inning, Notre Dame was able to get a pair of runs across as four of the first five batters in the frame reached via single or walk. Senior righty Jared Wilson entered the game with one out and runners on the corners, and immediately got an out by picking off the runner at first after faking to third. Wilson saved the Gauchos from further damage by striking out Charlie Markson to end the inning.
The Fighting Irish carried their momentum into the seventh, loading the bases after three consective one-out singles. Freshman righty Kenny Chapman would then enter the game for the Gauchos, who recorded a controversial 1-2-3 double play on the very next at bat. After Chapman fielded the grounder and threw home to catcher Jackson Morrow, Morrow's relay throw to first nase struck batter Lane Richards on the back. However, Richards was judged by home plate umpire Scott Keene to have been out of the baseline, making the play an automatic and inning ending twin killing.
Chapman and fellow freshman Dylan Hecht teamed up to shut down the Fighting Irish over the final two innings of the game. Chapman's ERA dropped to 5.28 after his two scoreless innings, while Hecht recorded his fifth scoreless outing in six attempts.
Kuresa led UCSB's offensive efforts, going 3-5 with a two RBIs. Swenson had a pair of hits in his first start as the leadoff hitter to raise his average to .333, while Trinkwon and Newell each scored a pair of runs. Nesovic went 1-2 on the day, and now has a three-game hitting steak. Freshman left fielder Dalton Kelly went 1-3 in his first collegiate start.
The Gauchos will remain at home this weekend, playing host to the Sacramento State Hornets for a three game series from Mar. 15-17. Tickets can be purchased here.