SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Senior outfielder Joey Epperson went 3-4 with a pair of doubles and junior catcher Campbell Wear knocked in three runs with his first career hit to lead UC Santa Barbara to a 9-5 victory against BYU that wasn't as close as the scoreline indicated on Monday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Coming off a series win over Cal State Fullerton, the fourthteenth-ranked Gauchos (23-8) scored early and often against the Cougars (14-24), who struggled defensively and only got three innings out of starter Hayden Rogers.
At the close of the fifth inning, UCSB had already opened a 9-0 lead on the visitors. The biggest blow of the day came in the bottom of the second inning, when Wear turned on a Rogers pitch and sent it down the left field line for a bases-clearing double after the Gauchos had loaded the bags with three consecutive singles.
Wear later scored on a Peter Maris lineout to go up 4-0. Despite starting and playing the whole game, Maris actually didn't record an official at bat on the day: recording sac flies in the second and fourth innings and drawing walks in each of his other three plate appearances.
UCSB also capitalized on some shaky BYU defense, scoring runs on throwing errors by Rogers and catcher Bronson Larsen. Epperson closed UCSB's offensive output by ripping a double off the left field wall to score designated hitter Scott Quinlan. With his three hits on the day, Epperson raised his NCAA-best batting average to .451.
Staked to that big lead, Gauchos starter Andrew Vasquez easily earned a win in his first decision of the year after allowing one run in six innings pitched while fanning eight.
Surrendering five walks over his outing, Vasquez helped himself by only allowing four hits overall and just a pair over the first five innings. The Cougars were able to break through for a run off the UCSB southpaw with a Larsen double in the sixth, but were otherwise unable to do any damage against the former Freshman All-American.
BYU rallied off the Gauchos bullpen for four runs in the ninth, creating some nervous folks in the Caesar Uyesaka stands, but sophomore righty Connor Baits induced a bases-loaded infield fly before freezing Larsen with a breaking ball to end the game and the comeback bid.
Receiving the loss, Rogers dropped to 1-2 on the year. His final line over three innings included seven hits, six runs allowed (five earned), one walk, and no strikeouts.
Sophomore righty Hector Lujan had a strong outing for UCSB in relief of Vasquez, allowing no hits in two shutout innings. It was the first appearance for Lujan since Mar. 23 against Wagner.
The Gauchos continue their Big West schedule this weekend as they travel to Long Beach State to take on the Dirtbags in a three-game set. Due to the Easter holiday, the series will begin on Thursday and end Saturday. Sophomore lefty Justin Jacome is set to start for the Gauchos in the opener after a two-week absence. First pitch on Thursday is set for 6:00 p.m.