May 7, 2006

UCSB Drops Game Three Heartbreaker, Falls to No. 4 Cal State Fullerton 7-5

May 7, 2006

Box Score

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UCSB (20-23, 6-9) erased a four-run deficit before taking a one run lead into the ninth inning, but Cal State Fullerton (35-12, 12-3) scored three runs in the top of the ninth to defeat UCSB 7-5 on Sunday in the rubber match of a three-game series at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

For the second straight day, junior Chris Valaika led the Gauchos offensively. The Hart HS product batted three-for-five with a double, one run scored and three RBI. With the three RBI, Valaika finished with an impressive eight RBI on the series. Junior Mario Lewis also had a good day at the plate, finishing two-for-four with a double on the day.

Gaucho starter Brian Tracy had a strong outing, lasting five innings and surrendering two runs on six hits and no walks while striking out two. The Claremont, Calif. native handed the ball over to junior Brian Fleming in the sixth, who dealt an inning and a third, giving up two runs on four hits and a walk. Submariner Justin Segal earned the loss after throwing the next two and a third innings, allowing three runs on three hits and a walk while striking out a pair of Titans. Senior left-hander Andrew Schoneberger finished the game on the hill for the Gauchos, striking out the only batter he faced.

Junior Blake Davis led the Titan offense, batting three-for-five with a home run, one RBI and three runs scored. First baseman Brett Pill also contributed three hits on the day, including a two RBI triple in the three-run Fullerton ninth. Titan closer Vinnie Pestano dealt three innings of relief, surrendering a run on three hits and a walk while striking out three en route to his second win of the season.

Cal State Fullerton got on the board first with one run in the fourth. Davis singled into centerfield to leadoff the inning before Pill followed with a single of his own to put runners at the corners with nobody out. On the ensuing play, Danny Dorn grounded a ball to Carrithers at second who fielded and forced Pill out at the bag, but Davis scampered home with the first run of the game on the play.

Fullerton would extend its lead to 4-0 with three runs in the top of the sixth. After a leadoff homer to right centerfield by Davis to start the inning, Fleming came on to pitch for the Gauchos. Fleming was greeted by a single back up the box off the bat of Pill. Following a sacrifice and a walk, Fleming got Brandon Tripp to fly out to left field for the second out. On the next play, Clark Hardman cleared the bases with a double down the right field line to plate the second and third runs of the inning for the Titans.

UCSB wasted no time responding to the Titan offensive output, posting three runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning. After a leadoff single by freshman Chris McMurray, sophomore Alden Carrithers walked to put runners at first and second. Valaika cleared the bases on the next play with a double down the left field line to cut the Fullerton lead to 4-2. Senior Matt Emerick followed with a productive groundout to second base to move Valaika to third with one out. After a pitching change that brought left-hander Ryan Paul into the game, junior Robbie Blauer picked up his nineteenth RBI of the season with a single into left field.

The Gauchos completed the comeback with one run in the seventh. Freshman Shane Carlson led things off by getting hit in the foot by a Paul fastball. With a runner at first and nobody out, Fullerton summoned its closer Pestano to try to earn the three inning save. Pestano was welcomed by a Lewis double on the ensuing play that put runners at second and third with nobody out. Pestano struck out McMurray for the first out on the next play, before getting Carrithers looking with a nasty slider at the knees for out number two. With two out, Valaika at the plate and a base open, Fullerton surprisingly decided to pitch to the star shortstop. Valaika made the decision hurt with a single to right field to plate Carlson, but Lewis was gunned down at home trying to score the go-ahead run. Nonetheless, the Gauchos had evened the score at four after trailing 4-0 headed into the sixth.

After Segal shut down the Titan offense in the top of the eighth, UCSB took the lead in the bottom half of the inning. Emerick connected for a leadoff double down the left field line before being moved to third on a Blauer sacrifice bunt. An intentional walk to pinch-hitter Clayton Shank put runners at the corners with one out. Head coach Bob Brontsema then used another pinch-hitter for freshman Austin Hogans. This time it was junior Brian Lee who got the call to bat, and he made the most of his opportunity. With two strikes, Lee lofted a fly ball into centerfield that scored Emerick from third and gave the Gauchos their only lead of the day.

Down by one run headed into the ninth, Cal State Fullerton exploded for three huge runs in the inning to run the score to its eventual final of 7-5. After a leadoff foul out to McMurray behind the dish, Evan McArthur singled to right field to get the ball rolling for the Titans. A pinch-hit walk to Matthew Fahey put runners at first and second before Fahey was replaced by pinch runner Joe Turgeon at first. On the ensuing play, Justin Turner singled to right field to plate the tying run and put the runners at the corners. With one out, Fullerton tried a squeeze play that resulted in Turgeon being thrown out at the plate and left runners at first and second. Pill came up clutch for the Titans on the very next play, clearing the bases with a line drive triple that got over Emerick's head and rolled to the wall in centerfield. Schoneberger came on and struck out Dorn to end the inning, but the damage had been done. Headed into the bottom of the ninth, UCSB trailed 7-5.

Pestano induced a fly ball to right field to start the ninth inning before Carrithers reached on a throwing error by Davis at shortstop. Unfortunately for the Gauchos, Pestano struck out Valaika for the second out before inducing a game-ending ground ball to shortstop.

UCSB will continue action this Tuesday when it hosts UCLA in non-conference action at 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

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