Gauchos Take NM State Series With 7-2 Sunday Win

Chris Clements (photo by Tony Mastres)
Chris Clements (photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara baseball team scored a key victory in Sunday's rubber match against New Mexico, using an outstanding effort on the mound from junior righty Chris Clements and six extra-base hits from the offense to pull out a 7-2 win. 

In his first start at home since Feb. 28, Clements turned in arguably the most impressive outing of his career, holding the potent Aggies (14-11) offense scoreless through seven innings before faltering in the eighth to the tune of two runs.

Clements, who entered the game with an ERA north of 8.00, ended up giving up just those two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking none. He operated ahead in the count for the vast majority of the afternoon, throwing a first-pitch strike to 21 of the 29 batters he faced (72%). 

UCSB (9-12) meanwhile put forth one of its most consistent offensive displays of the season, recording a hit in seven of eight innings. It was a team effort for the Gauchos, as eight of nine starters had at least one hit, five different players had extra-base hits, and a trio had multiple RBIs. 

"Chris is certainly better than an 8.00 ERA pitcher," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "His stuff is good, he's worked really hard, he's added velocity. He did a better job today of adjusting, getting the ball back down after a bad pitch instead of staying up in the zone on multiple pitches. His curveball was a real good today too. He was able to spin it over for a strike and get some swings-and-misses as well."

With a double and a triple, nine-hole hitter Tevin Mitchell led UCSB's offensive charge, though almost everyone had a big at-bat at some point throughout the contest. 

Mitchell's RBI triple off the left-center field fence capped off the Gauchos' biggest inning of the game, a three-run fourth. Junior DH Josh Adams drove in the eventual game-winning run seconds before Mitchell's three-bagger with a two-run double into the left-center gap off NM State starter Johnathan Groff. 

Adams and Mitchell teamed up again in the seventh to put up another crooked number, reaching on a single and double respectively before Colton Burns lined a base hit into center that was kicked by Aggies center fielder Marcus Still, allowing both runners to score easily. 

Junior shortstop JJ Muno capped the scoring for UCSB with an RBI double into the left field corner in the eighth. 

The Aggies threw their sole offensive punch of the game in the eighth, getting to Clements for three hits early. Third baseman Joey Ortiz eventually lined a two-run double to left to break up UCSB's chance at having consecutive shutouts for the first time since 2011. 

Freshman lefty AJ Woodall came in after the Ortiz double to face Austin Botello, whose grand slam was the difference in Friday's loss to NM State. The two battled until the count was full until Botello fanned at Woodall breaking ball on the outer half of the plate for the second out. 

Junior righty Steven Ledesma ended the threat by inducing a harmless pop-up from Dan Hetzel for the final out. 

Ledesma, who has a 1.04 ERA out of the bullpen this year, went on to strike out the side in the ninth to lock down the victory. 

The Gauchos return to action on Tuesday afternoon in a non-conference midweek affair against Pepperdine, with first pitch set for 3:00 p.m.