TUCSON, Ariz. – The bottom third of the UC Santa Barbara lineup helped the Gauchos come out on top 8-3 in Friday's Hi Corbett Classic Tournament opener against Mississippi State, driving in seven runs to ensure the team's seventh straight win.
Each of the Gauchos' 7-8-9 hitters collected a pair of RBIs and multiple hits on the day. Center fielder Andrew Calica led the way with a 3-5 line, while right fielder Scott Quinlan (2-3 with a stolen base), and Jackson Morrow (2-2) contributed to the offensive surge. Freshman catcher Dempsey Grover, who entered the game in the seventh inning after Morrow was ejected following a collision at home plate, lined an RBI single in his only plate appearance.
Now at 8-1 this season, UCSB is in the midst of its longest winning streak since the 2008 season. This is the best nine-game start to a season since 1996, when the Bob Brontsema-led Gauchos also went 8-1 to open the year.
Reigning Big West Field Player of the Week Joey Epperson continued his hot-hitting ways with a 4-5 day in the leadoff spot. The senior third baseman, who entered the game with the sixth-highest batting average in the country, is now hitting .541 and has collected a hit in every game this season and multiple hits in seven straight.
Sophomore lefty Justin Jacome moved to 2-0 on the year after his 6.1 inning, one earned run outing. The Redlands, Calif. native has now allowed two runs or fewer in seven straight starts dating back to last season. Jacome added six strikeouts on the day and allowed just four hits.
The southpaw ran into trouble in the third and fourth frames, as the Bulldogs – a national seed and College World Series participant in 2013 – were able to get a pair of runners on to lead off both innings. However, Jacome induced double plays each time to limit the damage to one run apiece. He cruised throughout the rest of the game, allowing just two hits over the other five innings he appeared in.
Down 2-0 after four innings of play, UCSB's offense awoke from its brief lull beginning in the top of the fifth with a Peter Maris RBI groundout. However, the floodgates would open the next time the Gauchos came to bat.
Junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa and sophomore designated hitter Robby Nesovic started the sixth-inning rally with singles. Calica and Quinlan then cashed in their first ribeyes of the game with base hits. Morrow would clear the bases and give UCSB its third and fourth runs of the inning, including the eventual game winner, with an RBI double.
The Gauchos would add three more runs in the seventh to ice the game for junior Greg Mahle, who provided 2.2 innings of shutdown relief. Making his team-leading sixth appearance of the season, Mahle allowed just a single unearned run and lowered his ERA to 2.61.
Mississippi State starter Ben Bracewell took the loss after allowing three runs over 5.1 innings. The Bulldogs bullpen fared worse than Bracewell, allowing five runs in just 4.2 collective innings of work. Senior outfielder Demarcus Henderson (2-3) and senior second baseman Brett Pirtle (1-4, team's only extra-base hit) led the way offensively for MSU.
UCSB will play its second doubleheader of the season tomorrow, rematching with Mississippi State for a 1:00 p.m. matinee before tangling with tournament host Arizona at 6:00 p.m. Live video streaming of all tournament games can be found here.