March 22, 2014

No. 15 Gauchos Sweep Wagner Doubleheader to Extend Historic Home Start

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Fifteenth-ranked UC Santa Barbara outscored visiting Wagner College 20-4 in a Saturday doubleheader, sweeping the twinbill and clinching the series from the Seahawks after putting together a 14-hit performance in the opener and limiting the opposition to just four hits in the nightcap.

The Gauchos smacked 14 hits and capitalized on five Wagner errors to best the Seahawks 13-3 in game one. UCSB's pitching was dominant in game two, as Austin Pettibone and Andrew Vasquez teamed up to shut down Wagner in a 7-1 win.

The wins improved the Gauchos to 16-3 on the year, extending the team's best 19-game start to a season since 1984 (18-1). UCSB has now won or split its past 15 series and has won 10 straight series of three games or more.

UCSB's current 10-1 record at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium is the best 11-game start to a home schedule since 1996 (10-1 as well), and just the third time in program history that the Gauchos have recorded 10 wins in their first 11 home games.

Junior right-hander Austin Pettibone made his season-debut in game two and was effective on a strict pitch limit, striking out four and surrendering just two hits and one run in three innings of work. He also picked up the decision in the nightcap, earning his first victory of the year after leading the Gauchos in wins in each of the past two seasons.

As good as Pettibone was, junior lefty Andrew Vasquez was downright unhittable in relief, fanning nine batters against one hit in 4.2 innings pitched. Vasquez's nine strikeouts were the most by a UCSB pitcher in a single game since Matt Vedo had a dozen against Cal Poly on Apr. 10, 2012. With a season-high 14 strikeouts as a staff in game two, UCSB had its most strikeouts as a team since May 25, 2012 against Utah (also 14).

Sophomore center fielder Andrew Calica led UCSB offensively from the leadoff spot, collecting three hits and a pair of RBIs in each game while scoring three times on the day.

Sophomore third baseman Ryan Clark took advantage of some extended playing time on Saturday, going a combined 4-8 with three RBIs and four runs scored.

Despite going 1-2 in game one, Joey Epperson's 24-game hitting streak came to a close with an 0-3 line in the nightcap. After being retired on a lineout in the seventh inning, the Gauchos rallied to try and get one more at-bat for Epperson, but he was left on deck at the end of the eighth inning.

Game One Recap

UCSB took advantage of some Wagner mistakes on the mound and in the field at the outset of game one to stake itself to an 8-0 lead after the third inning.

Junior right fielder Scott Quinlan knocked in the first run of the game in the first inning with an RBI groundout, scoring Calica – who led off the frame with a base hit – after Wagner starter Matt Morris had issued a walk and hit a batter to load the bases.

The Gauchos would add two more in the next frame with a Clark RBI single up the middle past a drawn-in infield and an RBI Jackson Morrow groundout.

UCSB then exploded for five runs in the next inning. Back-to-back errors by the Seahawks to start the frame led to UCSB's first run, then left fielder Cameron Newell plated another with a sacrifice fly. The big blow for the Gauchos came with a two-run double from Morrow off the glove of Wagner shortstop Nick Mascelli, before Epperson capped the rally with an RBI single through the left side.

Staked to an eight-run advantage, UCSB starter Robby Nesovic did a fine job of making Wagner put the ball in play, as the righty issued no walks in his seven innings on the mound.

Nesovic's only blemishes were a leadoff homer from Nick Dini in the fourth inning and a Jason Gordon RBI groundout in the sixth. He also allowed an unearned run in the seventh on an infield single, but it mattered little at the score was already 11-2 at the time.

Nesovic moved to 2-1 after receiving the win. Sophomore righty Dylan Hecht and senior lefty Cameron Cuneo each tossed a flawless inning of relief, with Cuneo earning a pair of punchouts.

The Gauchos and Seahawks will wrap up their four-game series tomorrow afternoon, with first pitch set for 1:00 p.m. Sophomore lefty Domenic Mazza is scheduled to take the ball for UCSB.

Game Two Recap

The start of the nightcap meant the return of Pettibone to the UCSB pitching staff, and did he ever deliver in his season debut.

Pettibone, who sat around 92 miles per hour with his fastball, recorded seven of the first eight batters he faced before dealing with a bit of adversity in the third inning. After striking out Zach Yesko to start the frame, Pettibone hit a batter and issued a walk, later leading to Wagner's only run of the game when Dini lined an RBI single up the middle.

Reaching his pitch limit at the conclusion of the third, UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts summoned Vasquez to spell Pettibone, and the 6-6 southpaw went on to record one of his finest performances as a Gaucho.

Allowing a leadoff single to Gordon to start the fourth, Vasquez would not allow a hit the rest of his 4.2 innings on the hill. Vasquez responded especially well to Gordon's base hit, striking out each of the next five batters.

Vasquez racked up "K's" all afternoon long in fact. Besides striking out the side in the fourth, he fanned two batters in each the fifth, sixth, and eighth innings.

Sophomore closer Dillon Tate made his first appearance of the week in the nightcap, earning his fifth save of the season and the first four-out save of his career.

Thanks to the dominant UCSB pitching performance, the Gauchos offense was able to put across the eventual game-winning run in a controversial first inning.

Calica led off the frame with another leadoff single before Epperson wore a fastball to put UCSB in business with one out. Friday's three-homer man Tyler Kuresa then stepped to the plate and promptly hit a fading blooper down the left field line. Mascelli sprinted towards the line and made a sliding attempt at the ball, which nicked off his glove and was ruled fair by the home plate umpire, giving Kuresa a single and loading the bases.

Woody Woodward and Newell followed with RBI singles to put the Gauchos up by two.

Clark lined another RBI single in the sixth before Peter Maris and Calica hammered RBI base hits of their own in the eighth to give UCSB three insurance runs late in the game.