No. 7 Gauchos Remain Perfect in Midweeks With 8-3 Pepperdine Win

Paddy O'Brien (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Paddy O'Brien (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The seventh-ranked UC Santa Barbara baseball team moved to 20 games over .500 for the first time in the Andrew Checketts era while remaining a perfect 8-0 in midweek contests after defeating the Pepperdine Waves 8-3 on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

It was a bevy of newcomers who did the heavy lifting for the Gauchos (29-9 overall), both at the plate and on the mound. Sophomore catcher Paddy O'Brien and freshman DH Austin Bush combined to drive in five of UCSB's runs, and the duo teamed up in the sixth inning to hit the first back-to-back home runs for the program since Apr. 21, 2009 (Ryan Cavan and Shane Carlson).

In the first start of his collegiate career and just his fifth appearance overall, freshman righty Chris Clements was more than solid, allowing just a single unearned run on four hits with a pair of strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.

Even better was fellow freshman, southpaw Kyle Nelson, who surrendered just a single base hit against two punchouts in three scoreless innings of relief.

A predetermined staff day, Clements received the win - despite not throwing the requisite five innings - for the first decision of his young career.

One of the the few regulars to play in Tuesday's contest, senior left fielder Cameron Newell finished a home run short of the cycle while scoring a pair of runs. Senior infielder Peter Maris singled in the first inning to extend his team-best hitting streak to 13 games, and sophomore center fielder reached base for the 37th consecutive game - a record under Checketts - via a second inning walk.

Despite the relatively chilly conditions, the Gauchos' bats came out hot from the very start against the Waves (22-20, 12-6 in WCC play), who ultimately used seven pitchers in their own staff day.

Three Gauchos smoked singles in the bottom of the first, which worked against them as runners could not advance more than a single base. UCSB ended up leaving the bags loaded in the frame, but would not let Pepperdine off the hook again, plating runs in the next three innings before putting the game away for good in the sixth.

Junior third baseman Ryan Clark opened the scoring for the Gauchos, lining a one-out single into left field in the second to bring in Clay Fisher, who had hit a two-hopper off the fence for a triple earlier in the inning.

The Gauchos would go on to score a pair of runs in both the second and third innings to go up 5-0, with the eventual game-winner run coming across in the fourth when Luke Swenson scored on a passed ball.

After a Swenson opposite field single and a Nesovic double in the sixth, Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez made the move to the bullpen to bring in Chandler Blanchard.

Just a sophomore, it's unlikely that Blanchard will relish future trips to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, as the 6-4 righty immediately allowed the consecutive roundtrippers to O'Brien and Bush.

A two-run shot, O'Brien crushed a 3-1 fastball solidly over the left-center field fence. The powerful Santa Barbara City College transfer now has 10 hits - including two home runs and five extra-base hits - in his 18 at-bats this season for a slugging percentage of 1.056.

After that bomb, Blanchard once again fell behind in the count, going 2-0 to Bush, who then feasted on a grooved heater, catapulting into the upper branches of the trees overhanging the right field fence at Caesar Uyesaka. Like O'Brien, he has needed a miniscule amount of at-bats - just 12 - to hit his second dinger of the year.

Pepperdine starter Kiko Garcia, who also took the ball for the Waves in UCSB's 6-4 win in Malibu on Feb. 24, suffered the loss to move to 0-4, allowing five hits and an earned run in two innings.

Having won 16 of their last 19 and tied for second place in the Big West at 6-3 in conference action, UCSB will look to gain ground on conference-leading UC Irvine (10-2) as they travel to Hawai'i for a three-game series this weekend. First pitch for Friday's opener is scheduled for 9:35 PM Pacific.

KZSB AM 1290 and UCSBGauchos.com will carry a live audio broadcast of every game in the series, with Gerry Fall - the Voice of the Gauchos - on the mic.