Gauchos Held Off in Grudge Match

Jason Willow (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Jason Willow (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.- In a grudge match that came down to the final out, No. 4 UC Santa Barbara Baseball team was held off by the Cal Poly Mustangs in a dramatic 4-3 finish.

Thomas Rowan hit his team-leading thirteenth home run of the season and Tommy Jew went 2-for-3, but it wasn't enough to get the Gauchos of the hump.

The loss marks just the third time UCSB has been bested at home this season to move to 44-9 overall and 18-5 in conference matchups.

Rowan got the Gauchos an early lead in the bottom of the second when he blasted a opposite-field solo shot over the right field fence to put UCSB up 1-0.

Poly tied things up at one run a piece in the third inning with a double to left field by Conagher Sands with one out.

Threatened with runners on second and third after the double, Ben Brecht settled in to induce a flyball and a groundout to get out of the inning.

Brecht pitched 4.1 innings of six-hit baseball allowing two earned runs while striking out five with no walks in the no decision.

After Brecht was pulled with one out in the top of the fifth, Sands kept the pressure on with a 2-run blast to left-center to give Cal Poly the 3-1 lead.

In the following half inning, a two-out rally brought UCSB back in the game. McClain O'Connor walked to start off the rally followed by a base hit by Eric Yang between third and short to bring up Andrew Martinez.

Martinez ripped a double to left-center to score O'Connor and advance Yang to third base. The ensuing pitch from the Mustangs bounced and got away the catcher to score Yang and tie the game at 3-3.

The Mustangs looked to attack in the sixth with a runner on third and just one out when a grounder was hit to Jason Willow at third base. Willow abruptly dove at the runner and tagged him out to neutralize the Poly threat and get UCSB out of the inning unscathed.

A two-out single from Cal Poly gave the Mustangs a 4-3 advantage in the top of the seventh which was ultimately enough to earn a win.

UC Santa Barbara has one more chance to clinch a Big West title Saturday at 1 p.m. first pitch in the Gauchos' regular season finale at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium which will determine the winner of the Big West Conference.