May 12, 2007
Santa Barbara, Calif. - With six runs in the top of the ninth inning, the 16th-ranked Long Beach State baseball team dealt UC Santa Barbara a heartbreaking 10-8 loss Saturday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The Gauchos had a four-run lead heading into the final frame, but couldn't hold on as the Dirtbags exploded with six hits, including a pair of home runs.
UCSB fell to 21-24 overall and 9-8 in the Big West Conference, while first-place Long Beach State improved to 33-14 and 12-2 as it won its 11th straight game.
With an 8-4 advantage going into the ninth, it appeared that UCSB was going to snap Long Beach's win streak and set up a rubber game on Sunday as the Dirtbags won 8-3 in Friday's series opener. However, Long Beach banged out four singles and a sacrifice fly to plate two runs and cut UCSB's lead in half. With two outs and two runners aboard, shortstop Danny Espinosa blasted a 3-2 offering from reliever Steve Morlock over the right field fence, giving the Dirtbags a 9-8 lead. On the very next pitch, right fielder Robert Perry added an insurance run with another long ball to right before Justin Segal came in to record the final out of the inning.
Morlock, who notched a pair of saves against Cal State Fullerton last week, fell to 3-6 with the loss.
UCSB freshman starter Mike Ford was outstanding, going 7.2 innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits while striking out a career-high 10 batters. Ford is on pace to become the first freshman to lead the Gauchos in strikeouts since current San Francisco Giant Barry Zito did so in 1997.
The Gauchos were led offensively by shortstop Shane Carlson, who had a perfect day at the dish, going 3-for-3 with a run and three RBI. Carlson, who has tripled in both contests against Long Beach, has four three-hit performances in his last nine games.
First baseman Robbie Blauer also had three hits and lined out hard twice. Blauer, who crossed the plate twice, is now hitting .401 on the season and .410 in Big West play. Left fielder Mike Zuanich chipped in with two hits, including his fifth round-tripper of the year, while driving in two runs.
For Long Beach State, Perry had four hits and three RBI. Espinosa had three hits, while second baseman Matt Cline and catcher Travis Howell each pitched in with two hits.
Long Beach starter Andrew Liebel went seven, allowing four runs (three earned) on nine hits. Reliever Bryan Shaw, who entered the game in the eighth inning, got the win and upped his season record to 5-2.
UCSB broke a 4-4 deadlock with four runs in the eighth inning. Blauer and Zuanich kicked it off with back-to-back singles and were moved over by a perfect sacrifice bunt from DH Cody Dee. The Dirtbags intentionally walked catcher Chris McMurray to load the bases. Pinch hitter Brian Gump knocked in the first run with an infield single before Carlson's triple plated three more, giving the Gauchos an 8-4 lead.
UCSB took an early lead in the first when Blauer tripled to right and scored on a throwing error. The Gauchos held the lead until the third inning when Long Beach center fielder Chris Nelson belted a two-run home run to left field, his second long ball in two days.
The Gauchos tied it up at 2-2 in the fifth when a Chris Fox single plated Carlson, who had doubled to right center. The Dirtbags regained the lead in the sixth, but UCSB bounced right back in the bottom half of the inning with two runs to recover the lead. A double by Perry in the eighth drove in the Dirtbags' fourth run to tie the game yet again at 4-4.
The two teams wrap up the three-game series Sunday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium (1 p.m.). The Gauchos will throw senior left-hander Jeff Braun, who is 2-6 with a 6.36 ERA.