FULLERTON, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara used a four-run sixth to take a commanding 7-1 lead over Cal State Fullerton (11-12 overall, 0-1 Big West) and, despite a strong comeback attempt from the Titans, the Gauchos held on to secure a 7-6 victory in both teams first league contest of the year.
With the win, UCSB (18-4 overall, 1-0 Big West) avenges a tough loss against St. Mary's on Tuesday in which it blew a six-run lead and also improve to 8-3 on the road.
Friday's win is also the Gauchos first series-opening win at CSUF since 2001. UCSB is also searching for its first series win at Fullerton since 2007 and the first in the Andrew Checketts era.
Despite a poor defensive inning in the bottom half of the sixth, Santa Barbara really looked in control throughout the evening. In the first, an Eric Yang single, a Tommy Jew walk and a Thomas Rowan single loaded the bases up with just one out. Armani Smith would bring home a run with a sac fly in the next at-bat to give UCSB a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the second, southpaw Ben Brecht found himself in a bit of trouble. The junior walked the first batter then allowed two singles. Facing a no out, bases loaded situation, Brecht handled himself perfectly managing to work around the jam giving up just one run.
UCSB would add one run each in the fourth and fifth innings to extend its lead to 3-1. Then, in the sixth, Santa Barbara's bats really came out.
In the frame, the Gauchos accumulated four hits and four runs two of which were courtesy of round-trippers, one from Yang and the other from Jew.
For the night, Yang went 3-5 and his two-run shot put UCSB up 6-1. Yang also improved his team-best batting average to .420. As for Jew, his homer came after Yang's and would end up being the game-winning run. Jew now has seven home runs on the year which is a team-best mark. It was his only hit of the night.
Up 7-1, UCSB looked like it would cruise through the remainder of the game, but poor defense helped CSUF get back into it kicking off with an error from third baseman Jason Willow as he overthrew the first baseman on a routine grounder.
As the inning continued, similar mistakes kept plaguing UCSB and eventually, Brecht was replaced by freshman Michael McGreevy.
McGreevy inherited two runners and one out and worked it out as best he could allowing one run but getting out of the inning with UCSB still leading 7-5.
McGreevy pitched well the following two innings but after getting into some trouble allowing one run in the bottom of the ninth, he was replaced by closer Chris Lincoln.
Lincoln, holding a 7-6 lead, was tasked with holding off the tying run who was at first. After getting the first out due to a sac bunt, Lincoln forced the next batter to ground out.
Up 1-2 in the count against the next batter, Lincoln had the next pitch get away from him and he hit the batter putting runners on the corners.
Still, the closer would come through in the clutch for the Gauchos forcing the final batter of the game to ground out as he secured his sixth save of the season.
Brecht, who pitched well again today, improved to 4-0 on the year after allowing just four earned runs on five hits while striking out seven batters in 5.1 innings of work. Brecht also now has 57 strikeouts on the year which is tied for the most of any pitcher in the Big West.
UCSB also accumulated 11 hits as a team today with three players having a multiple-hit game. Santa Barbara is now 8-1 this year when having double-digit hits.
UCSB will look to lock up the series win tomorrow at 6 p.m. at Goodwin Field as Jack Dashwood will be on the mound to start for the Gauchos.