SAN DIEGO – The UC Santa Barbara baseball team suffered a 9-1 loss to San Diego State on Friday night in the season-opening contest for both teams at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
The Gauchos were ultimately doomed by a five-run second by the Aztecs, winners of the Mountain West Conference in four of the past five seasons, with all five runs charged to UCSB starter Noah Davis.
The Gauchos' opening day starter the past two seasons, Davis struggled with his control – walking four and hitting a batter – before making way for sophomore right-hander Liam Steigerwald with two outs in the second.
Second baseman and nine-hitter Jacob Maekawa provided the biggest blow off Davis, stroking a two-run single. First baseman Jordan Verdon dealt the rally's coup de grace with a two-run double to left off Steigerwald.
SDSU put the contest on ice with a three-run fifth.
Sophomore righty Chris Lincoln had UCSB's most effective pitching performance, as he tossed two scoreless innings while striking out three of the seven batters he faced.
The entirety of the Gauchos' offensive output came in the third inning, with sophomore second baseman McClain O'Connor – a Lassen College transfer – starting the action by ripping a double down the left field line off SDSU starter Logan Boyer. Redshirt junior DH Clay Fisher cashed in on that extra-base hit by rolling a grounder through the 5-6 hole to bring in freshman third baseman Jason Willow, who had reached on a one-out hit by pitch.
O'Connor, Willow, and redshirt freshman shortstop Andrew Martinez – all making their Division I debuts – looked like they had been playing together for years on a standout play in the bottom of the fifth. With the bases loaded, Martinez fielded a difficult grounder and then threw to O'Connor at the second base bag, but instead of going to first for a 6-4-3 double play, O'Connor surprised the Aztecs by going to third where Willow was able to tag out a drifting Casey Schmitt. That play helped stem SDSU's big fifth inning.
Though he looked dominant early on, retiring the first seven batters of the game, Boyer eventually succumbed to control issues and was pulled in the fourth inning, ending with a line of one earned run against with eight strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings. The Aztec bullpen combined for 5 1/3 shutout innings, with just two hits allowed. The first man out of the pen, lefty Jacob Erickson, received the win after retiring seven of the eight batters he faced.
UCSB and San Diego State resume their series tomorrow night, with first pitch scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Links to a radio broadcast, video stream, and live stats can all be found on UCSBGauchos.com.