CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. – The UC Santa Barbara baseball team almost overcame a 5-0 deficit in Friday's night neutral-field contest against Mississippi State, putting the tying run on base in both the eighth and ninth innings, but ultimately couldn't produce a big hit in an eventual 7-4 loss. The game was the opening tilt in the 2018 Kleberg Bank College Classic hosted at Whataburger Field, the home of the Corpus Christi Hooks (Double-A affiliate of Houston).
The Gauchos (1-4) made their first big charge in the eighth, plating a pair of runs to cut their deficit to one at 5-4. Freshman infielder Marcos Castanon, who had entered the game as a pinch-runner an inning earlier, had the biggest hit of that rally, slapping a one-out double into the right-field corner to score redshirt junior left fielder Thomas Rowan and put freshman third baseman Jason Willow 90 feet from home.
Though an Andrew Martinez sac fly – giving him his third RBI of the day – gave UCSB another run, the Bulldogs were able to escape with the lead after gunning down Castanon trying to take an extra base on a ball in the dirt for the third out.
MSU scored two more in the ninth to push the lead up to 7-4, but the Gauchos had a chance to tie the game again in the bottom of the frame after three straight singles to lead off the inning gave UCSB the bases loaded with nobody out. Unfortunately for UCSB, Bulldogs righty reliever Blake Smith dug deep and got the next two batters to strike out swinging before inducing a game-ending fly ball to snuff out the comeback and seal the win.
First baseman Josh Hatcher was the primary force behind MSU's early 5-0 lead, swatting a pair of solo homers off UCSB starter Jack Dashwood. His leadoff shot to start the fourth inning was followed by a two-out rally – a pair of doubles and a two-run single in consecutive order – as part of the Bulldogs' four-run inning.
Righty Konnor Pilkington picked up the win for MSU, allowing two unearned runs and striking out four in five-plus innings of work. Both of those runs came courtesy of Martinez, who punished Pilkington for a one-out throwing error by launching a two-run homer to left field for his first career home run.
For UCSB, Dashwood ended the day with a line of five earned runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and no walks in 5 2/3 innings. Senior righty Stevie Ledesma was on the mound for almost the entire time after Dashwood departed, allowing two earned and striking out five in three innings of relief.
The Gauchos next take on tournament host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. PT. A live video feed of the game will be accessible on UCSBGauchos.com.