SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara mounted threats in both the sixth and seventh innings in Sunday's series finale with Cal State Northridge at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, but couldn't overcome a three-run deficit as the Matadors took an eventual 4-1 sweep-avoiding win.
As it was UCSB's final home tilt of the season, seniors Cameron Cuneo, Jackson Morrow, Travis Israel, and Joey Epperson were honored in a pregame ceremony. The mothers of all players on the team were then invited to join the Gauchos along the third base line for the national anthem in honor of Mother's Day.
Unfortunately for the Gauchos (25-19-1, 9-12 Big West), the good tidings ended soon after the pregame festivities, as the Matadors (18-32, 6-12) parlayed three hits and three UCSB errors into a three-run top of the first inning.
The frame spoiled what was an otherwise solid start from Gauchos freshman righty Shane Bieber, who ended the day with one earned run allowed (four total) in four-plus innings of work.
Bieber was aided by a third-inning double play, but otherwise scattered hits throughout innings two through four. He only ran into trouble again in the fifth, when the Matadors were able to string together back-to-back base hits to start the inning.
In the meantime, UCSB struggled to answer back against CSUN starter Jordan Johnson, who allowed just one run on six hits in a six-inning outing. The righty retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced, keeping the Gauchos bats mostly quiet through the first five innings of the game.
Johnson's sole blemish came in the sixth when junior catcher Campbell Wear ripped a double off the left field wall to open the inning. After a hit by pitch and a strikeout, UCSB then got its first and only run as junior designated hitter/lefty reliever Greg Mahle ripped a pitch through the right side to plate Wear.
Johnson recovered immediately following the Mahle RBI base hit, inducing an inning ending double play ball from Tyler Kuresa.
The UCSB seventh started off just as well for the home team, as Robby Nesovic hit a leadoff double before pinch-hitter Scott Quinlan lined a single into left center to put runners on the corners with nobody out.
At that point, CSUN head coach Greg Moore summoned his closer Shay Maltese. The crafty righty made that a smart decision, stranding both UCSB runners en route to a nine-up, nine-down three-inning save, his seventh of the season.
The save preserved the win for Johnson, who improved to 3-4 on the season. Bieber dropped to 2-4 after getting tagged with the loss.
UCSB had a pair of standout relief performances of its own, as Mahle and sophomore righty Dillon Tate combined to throw five shutout innings.
Mahle, who entered with runners on the corners and nobody out in the fifth, did his best escape act, getting the Matadors to go popout-sac fly-strikeout to end the threat with just one run coming across.
He went on to shut down CSUN for the next two innings before making way for Tate with two outs in the eighth.
Tate, UCSB's sensational closer, pitched the final 1.1 innings, allowing just one hit against one strikeout.
Despite their heavy usage, both Mahle and Tate are sporting impressive scoreless streaks.
Tate has not allowed a run since Apr. 12 against Cal State Fullerton, a span of 11 appearances and 18 innings. Overall this season, Tate has gone unscored upon in 23 of 24 outings.
Mahle has not allowed a run in his last 11.2 innings pitched, and has just one run against in his last 19.2 innings going back to Apr. 17.
In 25 innings of work, UCSB's pitching staff combined to allow one earned run in the series against CSUN, the team's best figure for a 3+ game series this season.
Nesovic led the Gauchos offensively on Sunday, going 2-4. Mahle, Kuresa, Wear, and Quinlan were the only other UCSB batters to collect a hit.
For CSUN, right fielder Chester Pak (3-4, two doubles), second baseman Ryan Raslowsky, and catcher Nick Murphy (two hits apiece) carried the load offensively, while the Matador infield, led by shortstop Brett Balkan, made a number of impressive plays throughout the afternoon.
The Gauchos will be back in action on Tuesday afternoon, as they travel to Pepperdine for the team's final midweek game of the season. In their previous matchup this season on Mar. 11, UCSB came away with a 2-1 win at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium as Andrew Calica delivered a ninth-inning walk-off single against the Waves.
Sophomore lefty Domenic Mazza is scheduled to start for the Gauchos on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 3:00 p.m.