SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Headlined by a pair of homers from sophomore catcher Sam Cohen, No. 23 UC Santa Barbara's offense exploded for 14 runs on Saturday, scoring in each of the first six innings to rout visiting Tulane 14-1 and win the team's first home series of the year.
Cohen launched a three-run home run in the first inning to start the offensive deluge by the Gauchos (3-3), but that was just the beginning as the Gauchos put up a four-spot in the second thanks to a pair of two-run singles by Billy Fredrick and Tommy Jew.
Fredrick and Jew chipped in RBI singles again in the fifth to help put the game out of reach at 12-1 before Cohen and junior first baseman Austin Bush teed off for back-to-back homers in the seventh, cementing the outcome and extending the Green Wave's (1-5) rough start to 2017.
The Gauchos produced almost as many runs on Saturday as they had in the first five games of the season combined (16).
By the end of the day, a number of Gauchos put up eye-popping numbers, headlined by a career day from Fredrick who went 3-3 with five RBIs. Elsewhere, Bush broke out of an early-season slump with three hits and a pair of RBIs, junior left fielder Colton Burns continued his torrid start by reaching base and scoring four times, and Jew, Cohen, and junior third baseman Kenny Corey all finished with multiple hits.
"We've really tried to get back to a middle-of-the-field, line drive approach during batting practice, and we were able to execute that during the game today," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "It was good to see guys like Sam and Austin getting rewarded for hitting hard, head-high line drives."
"We're going to have to remember that approach and not let the 14 runs get to our head, because that's a good team over in the other dugout and tomorrow has the potential to be a trap game if we don't go about it the right way."
Though an average pitching effort would have likely got the job done on Saturday, UCSB starting pitcher Kyle Nelson thrived once again as he continues his transition from the bullpen.
Nelson, a 6-1 lefty, allowed just two hits over five innings, the furthest he has ever gone in three career starts.
In contrast to his first start of the year, last week at LMU, he was in command for the vast majority of his outing against the Green Wave, spending most of his time in the wind-up. He only had to pitch himself out of a jam in the second, wiping out a leadoff single – the runner moved into scoring position by stealing second – with a pair of strikeouts and a mile-high pop to Bush at first.
The sole blemish on Nelson's day came in the fifth, as Tulane left fielder Jarret DeHart got a hold of one and sent it over the right field fence for a solo home run.
"I thought his change-up was really good today," said Checketts. "He was in command and in attack mode, and showed some poise. He was tough on right handers after establishing his change-up."
Brecht did most of the heavy-lifting relief-wise, tossing 2 1/3 scoreless innings. He ran into a little trouble in the eighth, walking the leadoff batter and giving up a double to first baseman Hunter Williams, but he got a helping hand from Lincoln who came in and struck out pinch-hitter Jonathon Artigues before inducing a threat-ending flyout from catcher Jeremy Montalbano.
Traynor, making his collegiate debut, followed with a scoreless ninth.
UCSB goes for the series sweep against Tulane on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Before the game, UC Santa Barbara Intercollegiate Athletics will host a memorial for Mr. Gaucho, Phil Womble, on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 11:00 a.m. in the Phil Womble Hall of Champions.