No. 23 Gauchos Edged 2-1 by Kentucky

Noah Davis
Noah Davis

LEXINGTON, Kty. – Despite an 100-pitch, complete-game effort from ace Noah Davis, No. 23 UC Santa Barbara was narrowly defeated 2-1 by Kentucky in Friday's series opener at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Davis, a sophomore right-hander, was extremely effective except for one bad inning, as UK (5-5) got to him for a pair of runs and three hits in the third. In his other seven innings, the Gauchos' Friday starter combined to allow just a pair of singles, both in the seventh. 

After his two-run third, Davis went on to retire 15 of the final 18 batters he faced. 

Unfortunately for Davis, who dropped to 2-1 on the year, UCSB's offense failed to get anything going against Wildcats' starter Sean Hjelle, a righty who stands a towering 6-11. 

The Gauchos' (4-5) lone run off Hjelle came in the fourth, as reigning Big West Field Player of the Week Colton Burns led off the frame with a single then came around to score after advancing on a groundout, a pickoff throwing error from Hjelle, and a passed ball from catcher Troy Squires. 

That run halved Kentucky's lead, but it turned out that was the end of the day's scoring.

UCSB only got a runner into scoring position in one more inning for the remaider of the game, as junior second baseman JJ Muno led off with a bunt single in the eighth and then advanced to second on a sac bunt. 

A golden opportunity for the Gauchos to tie the game turned sour quickly, as reliever Colton Cleary came in and struck out Burns, with Squires gunning down Muno trying to steal third on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play. 

Cleary proceeded to finish the game with a 1-2-3 ninth, picking up his first save of the season. 

With one run against over 7 1/3 innings, Hjelle picked up the win to improve to 1-1 on the year. 

With a 2-4 line, Burns was the sole Gaucho to record multiple hits. No UCSB batter had an extra-base hit. 

The Gauchos will look to even the series tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. PST behind the left arm of junior Kyle Nelson (1-1, 2.00 ERA). He will be opposed by UK righty Zach Logue (1-1, 3.48 ERA).