April 10, 2011

Wheeler's Walk-Off Hit Leads Gauchos Past Mustangs

April 10, 2011

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Given the chance to end the game for the Gauchos two innings earlier, Beck Wheeler wasn't going to let his second chance pass him by.

The senior chopped a single through the infield in the 13th inning to score Joe Wallace from second, giving UC Santa Barbara a 5-4 win on Sunday vs. Cal Poly. Wheeler's single allowed the Gauchos to win the three-game series vs. the Mustangs in UCSB's Big West opening weekend.

UCSB (14-12 overall, 2-1 Big West) finally had someone break through after putting runners in scoring position in the eighth, 10th, 11th and 12th innings against Mustangs' closer Jeff Johnson. But, each time Johnson wriggled his way out of trouble.

After Cal Poly (11-16, 3-3) tied the game with two runs in the eighth inning, Mark Haddow walked and stole second with one out. However, he was thrown out at third base after a pitch in the dirt didn't fully get past catcher Chris Hoo.

In the 10th Steven Moon came inches away from ending the game with a walk-off home run, but the ball hit the top of the right field wall and Moon stood on second with a two-out double before he was stranded there.

UCSB seemed to have its best chance to finish off the Mustangs in the 11th when Haddow led off with a double and Trevor Whyte was intentionally walked. Ryan Palermo's sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third before Johnson intentionally walked Wallace with one out to load the bases. Joe Winterburn struck out on a full count fastball and Wheeler hit a ground ball to second base to end the inning.

An inning later, in the 12th Ben Edelstein led off with a single and Moon's sacrifice put him at second. After a fly out Haddow and Whyte both walked to load the bases, but Palermo grounded out.

Then, in the 13th, Wallace reached on an infield single and moved to second on Winterburn's bunt before Wheeler chopped a 2-2 pitch into center field, past a diving Denver Chavez, allowing Wallace to score on a headfirst slide and setting off a celebration at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

"We played hard and Nick Capito gave us a great effort out of the bullpen," said Wheeler, whose walk-off single was the first by the Gauchos since a 10-9 win on March 20, 2010 vs. New Mexico. "We executed our bunts in the late innings and I knew I'd get the job done."

Capito pitched five shutout innings of relief, allowing just three hits while striking out five Mustang batters. He allowed just one runner past first base. Capito (2-2) helped relieve a Gaucho bullpen that had been heavily used and pitched in relief of Matt Vedo, who wasn't bad himself, going seven-plus innings, allowing five hits and three earned runs while striking out five.

Vedo gave way to Bryce Uhrig with two on and nobody out in the eighth inning, but J.J. Thompson's single brought in a run to make it 4-3 and Evan Busby's groundout tied the game.

UCSB scored once in the third and then three times in the fourth to take a 4-2 lead. Haddow led off the fourth inning with a double and Whyte's single put runners on the corners. After an out, Wallace hit a ground-rule double to score a run before Winterburn's base hit to left field plated both Whyte and Wallace.

UCSB got its first run without accruing a base hit. Wheeler walked, then caught a break when catcher Jordan Hadlock's throw bounced off shortstop Mike Miller's glove on a steal attempt, leaving Wheeler on second. A groundout put Wheeler on third before left fielder Jimmy Allen dropped Brandon Trinkwon's fly ball to bring in a run.

Haddow was 3-for-4 with a run scored and a stolen base and Wallace was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI.

"It was a good weekend to start Big West play and that will hopefully propel us into a strong weekend at Cal State Fullerton," said Haddow, who was 7-for-11 in the series with a home run, two doubles, four runs scored and four RBI. "We showed this weekend that we are a contender in the Big West and that we have all the tools to make a run."

Before the Gauchos play at Fullerton this weekend, the team will play a non-conference game at Cal State Northridge on Tuesday at 3 p.m. Fans can hear that game - and the remainder of UCSB baseball games - live online by clicking here