SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – In the middle contest of a three-game series against No. 19 UC Irvine, starting pitcher and designated hitter Robby Nesovic took it upon himself to propel his team to victory, going 3-3 with a home run and pitching six innings of three-hit ball in a 5-3 victory over the Anteaters on Saturday afternoon that evened at 1-1.
Nesovic's efforts evened his personal record at 2-2 while improving UCSB's record to 24-20 with a 9-8 mark in the Big West Conference. UC Irvine dropped to 29-14, 11-6.
The freshman righty from La Mesa, Calif. earned the Saturday start after an injury to Justin Jacome, and for much of the game showed the same form as seen in his 6 2/3 inning outing of shutout ball at Cal State Fullerton on Apr. 14.
Through the first five innings, Nesovic allowed just one hit to a UC Irvine offense that had generated 14 runs the day before. That one hit came on a leadoff single from UCI catcher Ronnie Shaeffer in the second inning, the only frame in which Nesovic would face trouble for the first half of the game. Nesovic pitched out of a bases loaded jam – after the Anteaters put two additional runners on via a walk and a UCSB fielding error – by getting leadoff hitter Chris Rabago to fly out to right field.
Nesovic did struggle a bit with his command – as evidenced by his five walks – and that would catch up to him in the sixth inning, when Scott Gottschling launched a game-tying three run homer over the netting above the left field fence after allowing a double and walk to start the inning. Still, he showed resolve by retiring the next two batters he faced to end the inning.
After allowing the Anteaters to tie, the Gauchos quickly reclaimed the lead in the bottom half of the inning when sophomore second baseman Woody Woodward singled home Luke Swenson, who had reached on a hit by pitch to start the inning.
Making the switch to DH in the seventh inning, Nesovic helped his own cause my swatting a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh to push UCSB's lead to 5-3. He ended the day with a pitching line of six innings pitched with three hits and three runs against with four strikeouts, while he had three hits and reached base four times with the bat.
Sophomore lefty Greg Mahle and freshman closer Dylan Hecht combined to hold the Anteaters scoreless over the final three innings, though the final third of the game was not without drama, as UCI was able to get a runner into scoring position in each frame.
Despite hitting the first two batters of the ninth with 0-1 pitches, Hecht made an immediate about-face from there, coaxing a high fly ball from Taylor Sparks before striking out Shaeffer and Jerry McClanahan to end the game and pick up his seventh save of the season.
UCSB was able to scratch across three runs early off UCI starter Matt Whitehouse, who fell to 4-5 after allowing all five runs over 6 2/3 innings of work. Shortstop Brandon Trinkwon opened the scoring with an RBI double in the third, and then came around to score on another Woodward RBI single. Freshman third baseman Ryan Clark scored in the fourth on a two-base error after reaching on an infield single.
Joey Epperson and Cameron Newell both added singles in the victory to push their hitting streaks to 11 games and 10 games, respectively. It is the second 10+ game hitting streak of the season for Newell, whose 12 game hitting streak earlier this year is currently the longest by a Gaucho this season.
The rubber match of the series will take place tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 p.m.