SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – For someone who threw a complete game, UC Santa Barbara fans sure did not see a lot of starting pitcher Austin Pettibone in Friday's 5-0 win over the visiting Sacramento State Hornets. Instead, the sophomore righty spent the majority of his afternoon on the dugout bench watching the Gaucho offense.
Pettibone was incredibly efficient in the two-hour, two-minute contest, throwing just 79 pitches in his first career shutout. He threw nine or less pitches in six of the nine innings, never tossing more than 12 in any single frame. Incredibly, he seemed to strengthen as the game went on, throwing just 21 pitches over the final three frames, including a five-pitch ninth. It was the first shutout by a Gauchos pitcher since May 20, 2011, when Greg Davis gave up just four hits in an 11-0 win over UC Davis.
"Austin has been on his game all year," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "He missed a few more bats today and got a lot of first pitch outs, but he has been giving us a shot to win every time he takes the mound and that's all you can ask for."
The UCSB (10-7) win pushed Pettibone's record to 3-1 and established a number of new benchmarks for the Yorba Linda, Calif. native. Both his first career complete game and shutout, it was also the most strikeouts (six) and fewest hits (four) he has allowed in any start as a Gaucho.
Among the pitches that the Hornets (10-7) connected with, few were squared up solidly. Justin Higley's fifth-inning double and Scotty Burcham's sixth-inning single were both well-hit, but the rest of the Sacramento State lineup remained frustrated by Pettibone's mix of fastballs and offspeed pitches.
The Gauchos defense did plenty to back up their starting pitcher. Left fielder Woody Woodward made one of the toughest plays of the day when he ranged back to catch a line drive smoked off the bat of Hornets cleanup hitter Andrew Ayers while on the run. Shortstop Brandon Trinkwon effortlessly converted a pair of tough short-hop grounders, while third baseman Marc Venning showed no lingering signs of injury in his return to the UCSB lineup, making a pair of plays to his backhand.
In the second inning, Venning also drove in what would turn out to be the game winning run. Center fielder Cameron Newell stroked a one-out double to right field to get things started for the Gauchos. Newell would then take advantage of a lapse in concentration from Hornets starter Tanner Mendonca as he got a huge jump and stole third without even drawing a throw. He would come across to score when Venning fisted a 1-1 pitch into shallow center field.
Mendonca struggled with his command throughout the afternoon, and his wildness would break open the score for the Gauchos in the fifth inning. Woodward led off the inning and was hit by a pitch not once, but twice. After being struck on the shoulder on the first pitch of the at bat, he was ruled to have leaned into the pitch. After taking a couple strikes, Woodward was struck by another pitch, this time on the left hip, and was awarded first base. First baseman Tyler Kuresa would walk later in the inning, and then designated hitter Robby Nesovic turned on a 1-2 mistake pitch, doubling down the left field line to plate Woodward. An RBI groundout from right fielder Luke Swenson and an infield single from catcher Jackson Morrow would net the Gauchos another pair of runs, making the score 4-0.
Mendonca would eventually pick up the loss, dropping his record to 0-3. Hunter Greenwood and Alex Fitchett would combine to throw three innings of one-run ball to close out the game for the Hornets.
Nesovic remained red-hot with the bat, going 3-4 on the day. In his last four games, he has gone 8-13 with eight RBIs. Kuresa had his team-best eighth multi-hit game of the season, going 2-2 with a pair of walks.
The Gauchos will go for the series win tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 p.m. with freshman lefty Justin Jacome on the mound. He will be opposed by Sacramento State's Brennan Leitao.