SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Sophomore lefty Justin Jacome delivered seven shutout innings and struck out out a career-high seven batters to lead UC Santa Barbara to a 9-1 win over visiting Princeton on a cold, wet Friday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
UCSB's players and staff worked tirelessly throughout the morning to prepare the field for the game. Storms throughout Southern California that cancelled many other games threatened this one as well, but the Gauchos (5-1) and Tigers were able to fit in a brisk two hour-twenty minute contest in between rainshowers.
With the forecast calling for more showers on Saturday, the two teams have elected to play a single game tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. local time instead of a doubleheader. Weather permitting, the Gauchos and Tigers will have a twinbill on Sunday beginning at 11:00 a.m. with the nightcap commencing approximately 30 minutes after the first game's conclusion.
Despite the nine-run outburst, Jacome was the clear star on Friday. The southpaw from Redlands, Calif. took advantage of a Princeton team that was playing its first game of the season, as he faced the minimum and took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He struck out five of the first six batters he faced, ultimately ending the day with seven strikeouts, besting his previous career high of six.
Paul Tupper broke up his no-hit bid with a fifth inning single to right field. After allowing a two-out base hit later in the same frame, Jacome ended the danger himself by stopping a Peter Owens comebacker with his leg before retiring the runner at first.
Jacome received some help from his defense in his final inning of work. After a leadoff double, it looked like the Tigers were about to break through for their first run when Tupper lined another single into the right center gap. However, junior right fielder Scott Quinlan dove headlong to knock down the ball and prevent extra bases, then quickly recovered and fired the ball to cutoff man Tyler Kuresa, who relayed to catcher Jackson Morrow in plenty of time to catch the runner at home.
It was the second time in Jacome's career that he went through a start without surrendering any runs. He moved to 1-0 on the year and lowered his ERA to 1.38.
Offensively, the bottom third of the UCSB lineup was able to put a dent into Princeton starter Michael Fagan before the heart of the Gauchos order broke the game open by abusing the Tigers bullpen.
UCSB caught a bit of a break in opening the scoring in the third inning, as slippery conditions may have played a role in Princeton shortstop Billy Arendt's errant throw on a double play attempt. Instead of heading into the dugout unscathed, Andrew Calica scored on the error and put UCSB up 1-0.
The Gauchos scored the eventual game winning run two innings later in an extreme example of small ball. Quinlan opened the frame with a bunt single down the third baseline before Calica put the Gauchos in business with a base hit through the right side. Morrow and shortstop Peter Maris would then follow up with bunt singles of their own to plate Quinlan and go up 2-0.
Quinlan, Calica, and Morrow – UCSB's 7-8-9 hitters – combined to go 5-7 on the day with six runs scored and three runs batted in.
That fifth inning spelled the end of the day for Fagan, who dropped to 0-1 on they year after allowing one earned run and four hits with five strikeout in five innings.
The Gauchos were happy to greet the Tigers 'pen, as senior third baseman Joey Epperson led the Gauchos to seven runs in three innings against a pair of Princeton relievers.
Epperson smoked an RBI single through the left side to cap off a three-run sixth inning before hitting a laser-beam two-run homer to left field in the eighth inning to close the day's scoring. Calica and Morrow also collected RBI hits in the four-run eighth.
Despite going 0-3, left fielder Cameron Newell swiped three bags in the win. The Gauchos were busy on the basepaths as a whole on Friday, picking up six stolen bases, half of their season total.
Right-handed starter Shane Bieber is expected to toe the rubber tomorrow for the Gauchos opposite fellow freshman Keelan Smithers of Princeton. Bieber gave up two runs over five innings in his collegiate debut at San Jose State last weekend.