April 24, 2009

Valaika's Walk-Off Single Makes Gardner's Complete Game Stand Up in 6-5 Win Over No. 12 Cal Poly

April 24, 2009

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - If there was a way that any UC Santa Barbara baseball player could overshadow Joe Gardner on Friday, it would have had to be something dramatic.

Matt Valaika found a way to do it.

The junior hit a walk-off single with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning to make the Gauchos 6-5 winners over No. 12 Cal Poly in the opener of a crucial three-game weekend series. UCSB improves to 23-12 overall and 6-4 in the Big West, while Cal Poly falls to 27-10, 8-5.

The win over the 12th-ranked Mustangs was also the Gauchos' fourth over a nationally-ranked opponent this season and a large part of it was due to Gardner's performance.

The junior had one hiccup in his complete game - just the second by a UCSB pitcher this season - but otherwise was brilliant. Gardner struck out eight batters, allowed seven hits and four of his five runs allowed came in one inning. The Fremont, Calif. native improves to 6-0 this season.

But, it could have all been for naught had Valaika not given UCSB its second walk-off Friday victory for the second straight week.

Mark Haddow opened the ninth inning by striking out against new pitcher Eric Massingham (5-1), but reached base on a wild pitch. Gunnar Terhune laid down a sacrifice bunt, but first baseman Wes Dorrell's throw to second base in an attempt to get Haddow hit the Gaucho right fielder in the back while he was sliding, putting runners on first and second.

Brian Gump sacrificed the runners to second and third before Eric Oliver was walked intentionally to load the bases. Ryan Cavan, the team's leading hitter, popped up, however, bringing Valaika at the plate. The junior from Valencia, Calif. sliced a 2-2 pitch down the right field line, easily scoring the game-winner and setting off a bench-clearing celebration on the infield.

Gardner did not allow a hit until the fifth inning when Adam Buschini hit a one-out home run, opening the Mustangs' offense. Cal Poly entered with the Big West's most potent offense and it showed in the fifth. J.J. Thompson and Ross Brayton hit consecutive singles before another out, however Ryan Lee walked to load the bases.

Adam Melker singled in a pair of runs and put runners on the corners and Gardner's balk brought in the equalizer, making it 4-4.

UCSB scored in the fifth, though, when Gump singled to center, stole second and scored on Oliver's base hit. Gump's single extended his hitting streak to 13 games while Oliver's RBI was his team-leading 36 of the season. The senior first baseman finished with a team-high three hits while Gump had a pair.

The Gauchos scored once in the first inning on Cavan's sac fly and then plated three more in the second when John DeAlba doubled and later scored on an error, Shane Carlson hit a run-scoring double and Terhune singled him in.

The Gauchos go for the series win on Saturday as Mario Hollands (4-3, 4.28 ERA) opposes Matt Leonard (4-1, 7.03 ERA).

Saturday's game and Sunday's game - both at 1 p.m. - are part of the 2009 All Gaucho Reunion, scheduled on campus for Friday-Sunday, April 24-26. Among other events, athletics will hold a breakfast on Saturday morning. For more information on the All Gaucho Reunion, please click here.

UCSB Athletics is pleased to announce the Group Strength ticketing program. In an effort to provide an alternative to higher cost events, groups of 10 or more can purchase tickets to UCSB Athletic events at significantly discounted prices.

The general admission tickets - available for all ticketed UCSB Athletic events this Spring - will start at just $1 for youth and $3 dollars for adults. Tickets must be purchased at least 24 hours in advance by calling the UCSB ticket office at 893-3292 or by clicking here..

• Parking on Campus is Easy
Getting to UCSB baseball games is easy! From Highway 217, veer right at Steck Circle onto Mesa Road, and take a left onto Stadium Road. Caesar Uyesaka Stadium is on your left, and you can park at Lot 30 which is right outside the stadium. There are two kiosks that accept cash and credit card to pay for parking. Click here for maps and general directions.