SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara junior first baseman Austin Bush homered for the seventh time in as many games to move within one of the program's all-time record for single-season roundtrippers, but it wasn't enough as the Gauchos dropped the game and the series with a 7-4 loss to Cal Poly on Saturday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
After giving up two runs in the top of the first, Cal Poly starter Spencer Howard settled down and surrendered just two further hits in his eight-inning outing, earning the decision to move to 7-1 on the season.
Offensively the Mustangs were led by the bottom of the order, with seven-hitter Scott Ogrin going 2-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored while eight-hitter Kevin Morgan went 3-4 with a home run and four RBIs.
UCSB led by a pair on two separate occasions in the contest, but Cal Poly was able to fight back both times before going ahead for good with a three-run seventh.
The Gauchos did themselves no favors in the fourth, as starting pitcher Kyle Nelson made an uncharacteristic throwing error on a comebacker with two outs before surrendering a game-tying two-run homer to the next batter, Morgan.
Bush drove a 1-2 offering from Howard over the right-center field fence in the bottom of the fifth to re-establish UCSB's two-run lead, but that advantage was short lived as the Mustangs stampeded back to tie it their very next at-bat. Ogrin dealt the most damage in that rally, clubbing an RBI double off the top of the left field wall off Nelson before coming across on an RBI single through the right side from Morgan.
Checketts went to the bullpen to start the seventh inning, bringing in sophomore right-hander Kevin Chandler, but Cal Poly sustained its offensive momentum with a four-hit, three-run rally that proved decisive. Ogrin was the chief culprit for Cal Poly once again in the inning, driving in a pair with a one-hop double off the left-center field fence.
With Howard reaching the 120-pitch mark by the conclusion of the eighth, Mustangs closer Michael Clark was called upon to close out the game, which he accomplished while allowing just a bad-hop single en route to his 10th save of the year.
With his fourth-inning blast, Bush extended his Big West-leading home run total to 17, which places him in a tie with Greg Vella (1986) for second-most in single season school history. He needs just one more to match Tyler Von Schell's program-record of 18 home runs set in 2001. The Turlock, Calif. native also now has 31 big flies for his career, which puts him 5th in the UCSB annals.
Bush narrowly missed another home run in the top of the first, roping a line drive off the top of the right field fence. He and Armani Smith, who reached on a two-out error, both came in to score later in the inning on RBI base hits from Sam Cohen and Tommy Jew.
"Austin is tough to pitch to right now," said Checketts. "The weather is heating up and the ball is carrying more. He's on fire right now, he's mishitting balls and still getting them out of the ballpark. That's the kind of power he has. You don't see that very often on the West Coast since we moved to BBCOR bats."
The Gauchos will attempt to salvage the series tomorrow afternoon at 12:00 p.m. UCSB's five seniors will be honored in a pregame ceremony at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.