LOS ANGELES – Playing their fifth game in six days, the Gauchos showed that they were none the worse for wear, jumping out a double-digit lead early as part of an eventual 11-3 win over Loyola Marymount on Wednesday afternoon at George C. Page Stadium in Justin Jacome's return to the mound.
UCSB has now won six its last seven games to improve to 29-21 on the year. The Gauchos entered the game listed as high as 48th in the RPI rankings, and should expect a small bump after defeating the Lions, who fell to 22-27. Teams in the top-45 in the RPI are generally considered to have a chance at receiving an at-large bid into the 64-team NCAA Tournament.
Jacome, a freshman lefty, made his first start since injuring his ankle covering first on Apr. 27, and it was clear that he didn't miss a beat. The Redlands, Calif. native allowed just one run over 6 1/3 innings pitched while scattering seven hits to pick up his fifth win of the season.
Jacome was in control for the most part, facing just one batter over the minimum his first time through the lineup, but had to bear down through the middle innings.
Loyola Marymount was able to get a pair of runners on in both the fourth and fifth innings, but both times Jacome induced rally-ending groundouts. The only run he gave up was in the seventh inning when he allowed a leadoff double to Cole Trezek, who scored after Jacome had been lifted for a reliever.
Of course, most pitchers will leave the game in line for the win when his offense hands him an 11-0 lead, as was the case with Jacome.
The Gauchos jumped all over LMU starter Matt Florer, who had previously thrown a no-hitter against Cal State Northridge and entered the game with a 1.95 ERA.
UCSB loaded the bases in the very first inning, but a double play saved the Lions from any damage. They wouldn't be so lucky in the ensuing innings however.
Senior third baseman Marc Venning opened the scoring in the second inning with a double that scored Cameron Newell. After Venning moved to third on a Luke Swenson single, catcher Jackson Morrow drove in the first of his career-high four RBIs on the day with a squeeze bunt. Another run would come in on a double play before the inning expired, giving UCSB a 3-0 lead.
Morrow knocked in another pair of runs in the very next inning with a bases-loaded single, before Joey Epperson notched an RBI base hit and Morrow scored on an error to push the score to 7-0.
Florer ended up taking the "L" after allowing six runs on five hits in just 2 1/3 innings, dropping his record to 2-3.
His replacement, Brandon Horth, fared little better, allowing four runs in the UCSB fourth, highlighted by an RBI triple from first baseman Tyler Kuresa and another RBI base hit from Morrow. A sacrifice fly from Epperson pushed the score to 11-0 before the Lions could retire the side.
Wear, making his UCSB pitching debut, allowed a single and a four-pitch walk to start the ninth inning, but settled down and retired three straight Lions to end the threat and the game.
The Gauchos will close out their home schedule this weekend with a three-game Big West set against Pacific, who is tied for last place in the conference at 5-16.