No. 12 Gauchos Narrowly Slide by Fresno State in Series Opener, 6-5

Peter Maris (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Peter Maris (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Senior third baseman Peter Maris lined an RBI single up the middle in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a 5-5 tie, helping salvage a 6-5 victory for No. 12 UC Santa Barbara after the team had squandered a four-run lead against visiting Fresno State on Wednesday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

The game-winning hit was part of a 3-4 day for Maris, who was joined by Andrew Calica (2-3, extending his reach-base streak to 27 games) and Woody Woodward (2-4, two RBIs) in the multi-hit club.

In the first of a four-game non-conference series, the Gauchos (20-7) pounced all over Bulldogs (16-14) starter Jimmy Lambert, tagging the right-hander for five runs on nine hits over seven innings.

Junior DH Robby Nesovic opened the scoring with an RBI infield single in the first, then Calica ripped a single through the right side in the second to to plate Maris – who had doubled to lead-off the frame – and put the Gauchos up 2-0.

A three-run fourth, highlighted by a two-run double from Woodward and a run-scoring single from Cameron Newell, made it 5-1 and seemed to put the game in a tight vicegrip for the Gauchos, who entered Wednesday with the seventh best team ERA (2.07) in the NCAA.

That advantage could have been even greater, as Maris had led off the fourth inning with a towering fly ball that would have just breached the right field fence had he not been robbed on a perfectly-timed leap by Bulldogs right fielder Aaron Aaruda.

Instead, Fresno State came roaring back to plate four runs in the top of the sixth, chasing UCSB starter Domenic Mazza (5.2 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 6 K) from the contest and tying the game at 5-5.

The two biggest knocks of the rally came on Aaruda's RBI single and pinch hitter Kenny Corey's triple off the wall, which plated Aaruda and officially tied the game.

Freshman righty Joe Record entered the game in the seventh and reined in the Bulldogs with an inning and a third of shutdown relief. Earning his second win in three decisions, the Placentia, Calif. native struck out the first three batters he faced, including a clutch punchout of Manny Argomaniz with two on to end the seventh.

The only hit Record would allow was an eighth inning double, a cue shot off the bat of Kevin Viers that backspun off the third base bag towards the UCSB bullpen area.

Maris then put the Gauchos up with his base hit that plated first baseman Dalton Kelly, helping his squad capitalize on a pair of Bulldogs mistakes. Senior right fielder Luke Swenson reached to open the inning when Corey, the FS second baseman at the time, let a routine grounder between his legs. Kelly, who reached on a fielder's choice that retired Swenson, then moved into scoring position when Bulldogs reliever Jake Shull uncorked a wild pitch.

Nesovic locked down the game for UCSB with a scoreless ninth for his second save in as many chances, though the frame was not lacking for intrigue.

Leadoff hitter Austin Guibor, who had homered earlier in the game, opened the inning with a single off the glove of Nesovic. Then, after working a full count, DH Taylor Tempel was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the middle of his at-bat. His replacement, Torin Goldstein, saw one pitch, a fastball down and in, before taking a base on balls and then making way for pinch-runner Christian Parra.

Despite trailing by one run and having two on with nobody out, Fresno State decided to let their No. 3 hitter, catcher Taylor Ward, swing away instead of laying down a bunt. That gambit backfired however, as Nesovic froze him on a strike-three fastball on the outside black. Argomaniz then meekly popped out to Kelly in foul territory before Newell made a nice diving catch in shallow left field on a Brody Russell blooper to end the game.

For Fresno State, left-hander Casey Rodriguez (1-1) received a loss about as tough as they come in baseball. Facing just two batters, he was on the mound for Corey's misplay of Swenson's grounder, and then he made a nice play on Kelly's sacrifice bunt attempt to retire the lead runner. But then he was lifted and bullpen-mate Jake Shull cashed in Swenson via Maris's knock.

The Gauchos and Bulldogs will resume their series tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m. Dillon Tate, who has racked up the ninth most strikeouts in the NCAA at 59, is slated to take the ball for UCSB.