No. 7 Gauchos Rally Three Times to Defeat UC Davis for 10th Straight Win, 9-8

Armani Smith (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Armani Smith (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Seventh-ranked UC Santa Barbara rallied several times en route to an exciting 9-8 win over visiting UC Davis on Thursday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

The win was the 10th in a row for the Gauchos (28-5, 6-1 Big West), their second 10-game winning streak of the season.

The action started in the first inning as UC Davis (11-19, 3-7 Big West) put runners on at first and second, and Logan Denholm slashed a stand-up double along the left field line to give the Aggies a 2-0 lead. 

Later in the inning, back-to-back RBI singles from Alec Smith and Kyler Arenado extended the visitor's advantage to 4-0. 

UCSB didn't put runs on the board until the bottom of the third inning when Armani Smith delivered on a double over the third base bag to plate Eric Yang and Tommy Jew, cutting the deficit to 4-2. 

Andrew Martinez followed up Smith's double with a two-run home run to left field, tying the game at 4-4.

The Aggies reclaimed the lead in the top of the fourth when a solo shot from Caleb van Blake gave them a 5-4 edge. 

The Gauchos didn't waste time balancing the books again. With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Jason Willow bunted for a single and then moved to second on a wild pitch. Willow scored when Tevin Mitchell drove a double into the gap in right center.

Davis scored a pair of runs in the top of the seventh to take a 7-5 lead. After Alec Smith walked to open the inning, UCSB starter Ben Brecht was pulled in favor of Michael McGreevey.

The Gaucho reliever walked the first batter he faced, Arenado. A sacrifice by Cameron Briggs moved both runners into scoring position. Tanner Murray was intentionally walked, loading the bases. A sacrifice fly by Cooper Morrison broke the deadlock and moved Arenado to third base. Murray then stole second and a wild throw allowed Arenado to score, giving his team a 7-5 lead. 

Again, UCSB responded, scoring two runs of its own in the bottom of the seventh. Yang opened the frame with a double, Jew walked and Thomas Rowan singled up the middle, plating Yang and sending Jew to third. Armani Smith blooped a ball into right center, scoring Jew to tie the score, but Rowan was forced out at second on the fielder's choice as he had held up thinking the ball would be caught. 

"There's something about this team," Smith said. "We're fighters and we don't give up. It's been like that the whole year and I'm so proud of everyone in this dugout."

The Aggies broke the tie in the eighth, scoring a run after the first two batters struck out. Pinch hitter Conner Longrie drove home scoring Garret Kelly who had opened the rally with a bunt single.

Santa Barbara took its first lead in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Kyle Johnson crushed a double down the line in right. Mason Marquez pinch ran for Johnson. Jason Willow walked against reliever Tim Wieser, who was then pulled in favor of Steve Ouellette, who promptly unleashed a wild pitch to move the runners into scoring position. A passed ball scored Marquez and pushed Willow to third. Mitchell then hit a lazy fly ball to left, but it was deep enough to score Willow with what turned out to be the winning run.

McGreevey (5-0) closed things out with a scoreless ninth inning. 

"We're not really satisfied," Smith said. "We want to win 22 in a row. 10 is just a small step as to what we're trying to accomplish." 

The Gauchos face off against the Aggies once again Friday in game two of their series, with first pitch at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium taking place at 3 p.m.