Tate Goes the Distance Again as Gauchos Top Fresno State 2-1

Dillon Tate (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Dillon Tate (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.Dillon Tate delivered yet another superlative start for 12th-ranked UC Santa Barbara on Thursday afternoon, taking a shutout into the ninth inning as part of a complete game effort as the Gauchos bested visiting Fresno State by a score of 2-1.

The victory improved UCSB's overall record to 21-7 on the year while Fresno St. dropped to 16-15.

Despite being at just the midpoint of the 56-game regular season, UCSB has now received four complete games from its starters this year, which is as many as the 2012, 2013, and 2014 teams combined.

His second nine-inning effort in a row, Tate picked up the win to move to 4-3 on the year while lowering his ERA to an anemic 1.34.

The Claremont, Calif. native was efficient and dominant on Thursday, striking out eight while walking just one and allowing six hits. Tate, who entered the game with the ninth most strikeouts in the NCAA, has now fanned at least eight batters in seven of his eight starts this season.

He didn't reach a three-ball count until the penultimate batter of the game, with FS center fielder Jake Stone laying off three consecutive two-pitch offerings to earn his team's only base on balls of the day.

Tate recovered nicely after allowing a double on the very first pitch of the afternoon, allowing just two hits from that point through the end of the eighth inning. He was especially impressive in innings two through five, as he faced the minimum while needed seven pitches or less to get through the side each time.

He rarely got into hot water, but when he did he was able to escape for the most part thanks to his typically effective four-pitch arsenal.

After Austin Guibor doubled to open the contest and then was moved to third on a sac bunt, Tate got out of the inning unscathed by striking out back-to-back batters, blowing away Taylor Ward with a neck-high fastball before getting cleanup hitter Kevin Viers to swing through a fading change-up on the outside half of the plate. 

The Bulldogs didn't have another player reach scoring position until the ninth inning, when two of their first three batters in the frame blooped dying quail singles into the shallow outfield. Tate put the Bulldogs down to their last out by striking out Ward for the third time of the day, this time fanning on a front door slider, but Viers then made the Gauchos sweat a little bit by connecting for a solid single into right field, bringing in a run to make it 2-1 in favor of UCSB.

With runners on the corners, Fresno State looked to be seconds away from scoring the tying run as the Gauchos bit on a double steal attempt. However, Tyler Tempel, the runner on third, tripped on his way to home plate and only the first half of the steal turned out to be successful.

Reminiscent of his time as an All-American closer a year ago, Tate then shut the door on the Bulldogs, inducing a lazy fly ball from Manny Argomaniz to end the game.

On the other side of the coin, Bulldogs starter Tim Borst took the loss to fall to 4-3 despite a very solid effort, as the right-hander allowed just two earned runs over 5 1/3 innings.

The Gauchos scored single runs off Borst in the fifth and sixth innings, which proved to be just enough to eke out the win.

A leadoff Dalton Kelly single in the fifth inning quickly turned into a threatening situation for the Bulldogs, as UCSB shortstop Clay Fisher's sacrifice bunt attempt went for a single during the ensuing at-bat after the defense elected to let the ball roll foul. Instead, the bunt stayed glued to the inside lip of the grass along the first baseline and both Kelly and Fisher advanced safely. Kelly later came around to open the scoring on a Woody Woodward sacrifice fly.

UCSB then plated the eventual game-winning run an inning later. Junior DH Robby Nesovic opened the frame with a double to left, his team-leading seventh of the year. Senior right fielder Luke Swenson, the next batter, showed bunt but then pulled it back and slashed a chopper single down the first base line to push Nesovic across.

Sophomore center fielder Andrew Calica exteded his streak of reaching base to 28 games with an opposite field single in the first inning.

The Gauchos will go for the series win tomorrow with junior lefty Justin Jacome, who is coming off a complete game gem of his own, taking the ball. First pitch is scheduled for 3:00 p.m.