SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa swatted three home runs to lead No. 15 UC Santa Barbara to a 8-4 comeback victory over the visiting Wagner Seahawks in Friday afternoon's series opener, tying a program record and becoming just the fifth Gaucho all-time to go long three times in the same game.
The 6-4, 215 pound infielder slugged solo shots off starter Ryan Casey to lead off the fourth and sixth innings to keep the Gauchos (14-3) within shouting distance of Wagner (2-12), who had jumped out to a 4-1 lead by plating a pair of runs in both the third and fifth innings.
He then put UCSB up for good with a three-run blast off reliever Anthony Battaglia in the seventh that made the score 5-4. All three of Kuresa's big flies landed within 20 feet of each other over the right field fence, and all three line drive homers had remarkably similar trajectories as they left the park.
The last Gaucho to hit three homers in the same game was Mike Zuanich against Westmont on Apr. 15, 2008. He and Kuresa are the only two Gauchos to accomplish the feat in the last decade.
With seven roundtrippers on the year, Kuresa has now eclipsed his home run total from last season (five) and hit the most single-season home runs by a Gaucho since the 2010 season, all before the start of conference play.
Additionally, Kuresa's outburst helped him jump to sixth in the nation in home runs this season.
After taking their first lead of the day with Kuresa's seventh inning blast, the Gauchos went on to ice the game with a three-run eighth. Freshman designated hitter Billy Fredrick led off that frame with a single in the right-center gap – he now has hits in all four games he has appeared in – before Joey Epperson was walked on four pitches. Junior shortstop Peter Maris would cash in Dalton Kelly, who pinch-ran for Fredrick, with a single up the middle for the first run, then Andrew Calica knocked in two more runs with a single later in the inning to cap the scoring.
The UCSB pitching staff did a good job of shutting down the Wagner offense after struggling early in the game.
Starter Justin Jacome battled command issues, a rarity in his UCSB career, issuing two walks and hitting another batter in seven innings of work. He allowed four runs overall, breaking a streak of eight starts in which he had allowed two runs or fewer.
However, the southpaw improved late in his outing. After surrendering a no-outs double in the fifth inning, he combined with relievers Greg Mahle and Connor Baits to allow no hits over the final four innings of the game. In fact, Wagner's only baserunner after that point reached on a sixth inning hit-by-pitch.
Jacome picked up the win on the day, moving to a perfect 4-0 on the season. With another scoreless outing, Mahle has gone unscathed in his past 15 innings pitched, spanning six appearances.
Baits struck out both batters he faced out the close out the game in a non-save situation. He is now unscored upon in six out of seven appearances this season.
Epperson, playing left field on Friday for UCSB, extended his hitting streak to 23 games, going 2-3 with a pair of singles through the left side. He drew four-pitch walks in his last two plate appearances.
Calica (3-5) and Maris (2-4) also had strong days with the bats.
Nick Mascelli, Chris Smith, and Nick Dini combined to go 5-10 at the top of the Seahawks order, but the bottom five spots were a collective 0-18. Battaglia earned the loss after allowing Kuresa's final homer, dropping to 1-2 on the year.
A doubleheader is on the docket tomorrow for the Gauchos and Seahawks, with the first game set to begin at 12:00 p.m. The nightcap of the twinbill will begin approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the opener.