SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Sophomore catcher Thomas Rowan launched a bases-loaded line drive into a vacant center field to deliver No. 23 UC Santa Barbara a 6-5 win over visiting Tulane, capping off a wild series finale at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium to secure a three-game sweep of the Green Wave.
The Gauchos (4-3) clawed back from deficits of 2-0 and 4-2 to tie it heading into the final three innings of the game, but Tulane (1-6) was able to capitalize on a pair of UCSB miscues to pull back ahead 5-4 in the ninth inning.
UCSB answered right back in the bottom half of the frame, with pinch-hitter Billy Fredrick leading off with a solid single to left. Junior shortstop Clay Fisher followed with a perfect sac bunt on the first base side that was mishandled by pitcher Ted Andrews, then UCSB loaded the bases with nobody out after a wild pitch and intentional walk to sophomore DH Sam Cohen.
Not many teams would intentionally put a runner on to pitch to junior first baseman Austin Bush, and Tulane promptly found out why as Bush lined a 1-1 offering from Andrews into left-center field for a run-scoring single that tied the game and still allowed UCSB to have the bases loaded with nobody out.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so facing a walk-off loss, Tulane pulled in their center fielder and had him play first base, giving the visitors five infielders and just two outfielders.
With a wide-open center field, Rowan was patient and waited for a pitch to drive, pouncing on a 2-1 pitch and lining it right into the gap in the outfield.
It was sweet redemption for Rowan, who couldn't corral a Steven Ledesma inside pitch in the top of the ninth allowing Lex Kaplan to come in for the go-ahead run. Kaplan had reached base with a one-out fly ball into the left field corner that went for a triple after it went off the glove of UCSB left fielder Colton Burns, who made a long run to get to the ball but couldn't reel it in.
"Thomas was pretty emotional coming into the dugout before the bottom of the ninth, but I told him to get himself under control because 'if you look at this deal, you're gonna be hitting when we have a chance to win this thing,'" said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "He did a nice job regrouping and I thought that was a really good at-bat that he had."
Rowan's heroics made a winner out of UCSB closer Alex Garcia, who only threw three pitches, a good morning, good afternoon, goodnight punchout of Tulane first baseman Hank Williams.
Even more crucial, it saved Ledesma from a hard-luck loss after the Santa Barbara City College transfer tossed 4 2/3 innings of excellent relief, giving up just two hits while striking out seven.
Ledesma rolled up double plays in his first two innings on the hill to snuff out potential rallies, then settled in and went 1-2-3 in the seven and eighth innings.
"Great long relief by Stevie today," said Checketts. "His stuff was dancing all over the place, he was definitely tough to hit."
Offensive pressure from the Gauchos led to tying rallies earlier in the game. Burns, who reached base another four times on Sunday, launched the first salvo with a leadoff walk in the third inning. Freshman center fielder Tommy Jew followed with a base knock to left, and then runs came in for UCSB on a throwing error from Tulane shortstop Sal Gozzo and a sacrifice fly from Bush.
Jew brought the Gauchos within one on a fourth inning sac fly, and then UCSB evened it up in the sixth when Landon Silver scored on a wild pitch after working a one-out walk and advancing to third on a Burns bloop double down the left field line.
UCSB wraps up a four-game homestand on Tuesday with a 2:00 p.m. contest against St. Mary's before hitting the road for a three-game series at Kentucky this weekend. UCSBGauchos.com will have a live audio broadcast of Tuesday's showdown with the Gaels.