May 6, 2007
FULLERTON, Calif. - First baseman Robbie Blauer drove in two runs including one during a four run ninth inning as UC Santa Barbara erased a five run deficit to defeat No. 20 Cal State Fullerton 7-6 in a Big West Conference showdown Sunday afternoon at Goodwin Field. Kyle Brown was one of three Gauchos that combined to pitch four innings of scoreless relief and earned his first victory since April 17.
With the victory UCSB improves to 21-22 overall this season and 9-6 in the Big West, while Fullerton falls to 28-18 (8-7 Big West). The Gauchos also moved into third place in the conference standings and are tied with UC Riverside (9-3) in the win column.
Blauer went 1-for-3 with two runs batted in, while freshman second baseman Matt Valaika had another tremendous performance, finishing 3-for-4 with a RBI and two runs scored to lead Santa Barbara offensively. Left fielder Mike Zuanich, third baseman Patrick Rose, and pinch hitter Steve Domecus also drove in runs for the Gauchos.
The real story Sunday however, was UCSB's bullpen. After senior starter Jeff Braun was touched up for six runs through five innings, relievers Brian Tracy, Brown, and Steve Morlock completely shutdown one of the nation's premiere offenses, giving the Gauchos the opportunity for what proved to be an incredible comeback. The trio did not allow and run and gave up just three hits over the game's final four innings.
For the first time in the series Santa Barbara struck first, scoring a run in the first inning off Titan starter Adam Jorgenson. Center fielder Matt Fox led off the game with an infield single and eventually scored on a Zuanich sacrifice fly to center.
Fullerton then got on the board in the bottom of the third as a hit batter and an error by the Gaucho pitcher led to two Titan runs.
CSF erupted with four more in the fourth to build a 6-1 lead. Catcher John Curtis led off the inning with a single through the left side and scored three batters later when designated player Khris Davis dropped a ball into center field. Billy Pinkerton, Joe Scott, and Kyle Hardman followed with runs batted in for the Titans, who collected four hits in the inning. Pinketon's run would be Fullerton's last of the afternoon.
UCSB immediately responded with two runs in the top of the fifth to begin the comeback. Valaika led off the inning with a towering home run to left field, his second of the series and fifth overall this season. The Valencia, Calif. native is now second on the team and is just one long ball behind Mario Lewis. Shortstop Shane Carlson followed with a single to left. With one out Rose, who played well all series, doubled down the left field line and Carlson advanced to third. The next batter was Blauer who hit a ball deep enough into left field for a sacrifice fly and the Gauchos pulled within three, 6-3.
After Tracy and Brown battled Fullerton relievers Dustin Birosak and Michael Morrison through scoreless sixth, seven, and eighth innings, Santa Barbara capped its come-from-behind win with four in the ninth. Pinch hitter Brian Gump and Valaika got things going with back-to-back singles to left to lead off the inning.
Left handed reliever Paul Canedo then came on to face his only batter Domecus, who singled down the right field line, plating Gump for UCSB's first run. Righty Nolan Bruyninchx walked his only batter Fox to load the base before giving way to Bryan Harris, the loser in Saturday's contest. Rose reached on a fielder choice and Valaika came home on the play, as the Gauchos trailed 6-5. Blauer followed with his second sacrifice fly of the afternoon, scoring Domecus and two wild pitches would lead to the eventual winning run.
Morlock came on in the bottom of the ninth and shook off a one out single by Josh Fellhauer to retire the final two batters and preserve the victory for Santa Barbarba. The senior right-hander, who returned to the lineup last weekend against Cal State Northridge, allowed one hit on the way to his third save of 2007.
Brown earned the victory for UCSB after tossing two thirds of an inning and retiring the two batters he faced. He now owns a record of 2-1 this season. Tracy allowed two hits, struck out one and walked one in two and a third innings. Gaucho starter Braun lasted five innings, surrendering six runs on seven hits with a strikeout and two walks.
For the second day in a row, Harris took the loss for the Titans and falls to 1-3 this season. He did not allow a hit and retired all three outs in the decisive ninth inning, but gave up the deciding run. Jorgenson allowed three runs on six hits in 4.2 innings of work before giving way to the bullpen.
After six straight games on the road -- a span in which Santa Barbara went 4-2 -- UCSB returns to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium for a three-game set with Long Beach State next week. The Gauchos and Dirtbags will kickoff the weekend series Friday, May 11 at 2:00 p.m.