Gauchos Fall in Taut NCAA Battle With Oregon State, 3-2

Justin Jacome (Photo by Mark Ylen)
Justin Jacome (Photo by Mark Ylen)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In a taut, tense pitcher's duel, UC Santa Barbara battled the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Oregon State, on its home field for nine innings before losing a 3-2 thriller in front of a record crowd of 3,535 at Goss Field in Corvallis, Ore.  However, the Gauchos remain alive and will play Texas A&M in an elimination game at noon on Sunday.

UCSB freshman pitcher Justin Jacome battled through 6.1 innings against one of the best teams in the nation, allowing just two earned runs and striking out four.  OSU's Andrew Moore, also a freshman, was just a little better as he went 8.0 innings, allowing a mere five hits and one earned run while striking out six.  He improved to 13-1 on the season and his earned run average dropped to 1.19.

"It was a good baseball game," said Gauchos' head coach Andrew Checketts.  "Some young pitchers getting after it pretty good I thought out there. Matching each other pitch for pitch, pitch for pitch and pitch for pitch, we just weren't able to make that last pitch to stay in the game. Good effort on both sides of the field."

The Beavers scored the first run of the game on a home run to left-center field in the second inning by Ryan Barnes.  The designated hitter got a pitch up in his eyes from Jacome and powered it over the fence for his second home run of the year.

"It wasn't where I wanted it, it came in too slow and too high," said Jacome.  "He saw it all the way. I wanted it more down and outside, but he saw it all the way in."

The lead didn't last long as UCSB struck back for runs in the second and third innings.

In the second, with one out, freshman Robby Nesovic was hit in the left thigh by a Moore pitch.  Nesovic went to second on a passed ball and scored on a single to right center Cameron NewellLuke Swenson followed with a single, but no more runs came home.

In the third, Joey Epperson belted Moore's first pitch off the fence down the line in left field and then trotted to third on a wild pitch.  A ground ball to second base by Brandon Trinkwon scored the go-ahead run for the Gauchos.

The lead held until the top of the sixth when OSU rallied for a run after there were two outs.  Dylan Davis, the Pac 12 Player of the Year, started the procession with double to left field.  Barnes followed with an RBI single to center field.  Danny Hayes was hit by a pitch and Kavin Keyes reached on an error to load the bases, but no more damage was done.

UCSB had a golden opportunity in the top of the sixth when Trinkwon started things with a double to deep right center field and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Woody WoodwardTyler Kuresa was hit by a pitch and stole second without a throw, putting runners on second and third.  But that is where the runners would remain as Nesovic fouled out and Newell grounded out sharply to second, ending the inning.

The Beavers challenged in the seventh, loading the bases with one out on Jacome, but Greg Mahle was summoned and he responded with consecutive strikeouts of Davis and Barnes to end the inning.

Playing as the home team in name only, the Gauchos threatened in the bottom of the eighth inning.  Epperson led off with a single, was sacrificed to second by Trinkwon and moved to third on another wild pitch.  After Woodward struck out, Kuresa was intentionally walked.  He scooted to second on a wild pitch, but the ball did not go far enough astray to allow Epperson to score.  Nesovic walked, setting the stage for one of the game's most important plays.

Newell followed Nesovic and hit a hard shot to the left side.  Beaver shortstop Tyler Smith dove to his knees to snag the screamer and threw a bullet to second baseman Andy Peterson to force Nesovic and end the inning.

OSU scored the winning run in the top of the ninth.  With one out, Peterson placed a perfect bunt along the third base line.  Three Gauchos surrounded the ball, but they helplessly watched as it rolled to a halt on the foul line.

Michael Conforto then took a Mahle pitch on his hip to put runners on first and second and that was enough as Checketts walked out to the mound to summon closer Dylan Hecht

After getting the first batter he faced , Davis, to ground out to third, advancing the runners to second and third, Hecht had some control issues, walking Barnes and Hayes to force in Peterson with what turned out to be the winning run.  Keyes struk out to end the threat, but UCSB went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth to end the game.

The Gauchos return to the field on Sunday to play Texas A&M for the second time in three days.  The Aggies eliminated Texas-San Antonio in Saturday's first game.  On Friday, UCSB won the first match-up ever between the schools, 6-4.  First pitch is scheduled for noon and Nesovic will be on the hill for the Gauchos while the Aggies will counter  with right handed Rafael Pineda.