Gauchos Pull Out Pitcher's Duel, Take Cal State Fullerton Series

Stevie Ledesma (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Stevie Ledesma (photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Senior right-hander Stevie Ledesma continued his red-hot run since moving to the rotation and the UC Santa Barbara offense produced just enough to eke out a 2-1 win in Saturday's afternoon's rubber match against Cal State Fullerton at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, giving UCSB just its second series win over the Titans in the last 10 years. 

Having allowed just one earned run over 11 innings since moving into a weekend starter role two Sundays ago, Ledesma continued his new-found dominance against the Titans, surrendering just one earned run on four hits while pitching into the eighth. He one-upped CSF righty Andrew Quezada, who was solid himself in allowing two earned runs in a complete game loss. 

"Ledesma's been unbelievable his last two starts, and he came back today and stayed with that momentum," said UCSB assistant coach Eddie Cornejo. "He carried us today. He was poised and was constantly in attack mode from start to finish."

After both starting pitchers mowed through the opposing lineups over the first five innings – the first five frames combined were completed in about an hour's time – UCSB (11-12-1, 2-1 Big West) scratched across the only two runs it would need in the bottom of the sixth inning. 

Freshman third baseman Drew Williams – who was the hero on Friday night after hitting a go-ahead, pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the eighth in a 6-5 series-evening win – came up big again for the Gauchos during that sixth inning rally, hitting a pitching-wedge single down the left field baseline to score junior right fielder Michael McAdoo from second base. After a walk and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for UCSB, junior left fielder Sam Cohen drove in what turned to be the game-winning run with a medium-deep fly ball to center to bring in Williams on a sac fly. 

The Titans (10-15, 1-2) only threatened seriously in the eighth, but with the scoreline so close it made for some tense moments at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. 

CSF first baseman Jake Pavletich opened that rally by sneaking a groundball between Williams and the third base bag for a leadoff double. He was ultimately cashed in with a sac bunt and an RBI groundout, and the Titans got the game-tying run into scoring position on a two-out walk and a single from Hank Loforte. 

Cornejo at that point made the move to go back to Shea Barry, who earned the win on Friday with 2 1/3 solid innings of relief, and the gambit paid off as he induced a roll-over bouncer to first base from the left-hitting Sahid Valenzuela to extinguish the threat. 

Barry kept his foot on the gas pedal in the ninth, allowing only a two-out pinch-hit single from Jace Chamberlain, before bouncing off the mound to field a sharp grounder from Pavletich to close out the game for his first save of the year and the sixth of his career. 

Ledesma was absolutely dominant while the game was still knotted at zero. Before the eighth inning, he only let a baserunner reach second once: on a two-out double from Ruben Cardenas in the very first inning. The only other two baserunners he was responsible for the rest of the game, a second inning single and fifth inning walk, he promptly wiped out with double play balls to the very next batter. 

Quezada was up to the task of challenging Ledesma except in the sixth inning, not allowing the Gauchos to record a hit until the fifth and allowing just four hits for the duration of his outing. 

Next week, UCSB hosts local rival USC in a midweek tuneup on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. before welcoming in UTRGV for a three-game non-conference series starting on Friday at 3:00 p.m.