SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — After appearing in two games during the weekend at Texas, UCSB’s sophomore left-hander Greg Mahle was on a strict pitch limit for his Tuesday start against No. 17 Notre Dame. That pitch limit might have been the only thing standing between the Fighting Irish and a shutout, as Mahle delivered four strong innings to lead his team to a 7-2 win at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
The win snapped a three game losing skid for the Gauchos, who improved to 9-7. It was UCSB’s first win against a ranked opponent since it topped Big West conference mates Cal State Fullerton on May 12, 2012. Notre Dame fell to 10-4 with the loss.
Mahle established his presence early in the game, getting the first two Fighting Irish batters to strike out swinging. Mahle mowed through the Notre Dame lineup, facing the minimum during his four-inning outing. He allowed just one baserunner — a third-inning infield single — but promptly picked off the runner during the next at-bat.
Mahle struck out six batters in the game, all of them swinging. He left the game after getting Notre Dame’s No. 3 hitter, Eric Jagielo, to pop out to shortstop for the final out of the fourth inning. Even though he pitched just four innings, Mahle still earned the win to improve his record to 3-1 since UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts declared Tuesday a “staff day,” functionally making each Gaucho hurler a relief pitcher.
After Mahle hit the showers, the Gauchos offense — already up 1-0 by that point after Cameron Newell walked with the bases loaded in the first inning — responded by putting up four runs to put the game comfortably in their hands.
Sophomore third baseman Peter Maris ignited the rally by working a five-pitch walk. Junior second baseman Parker Miles then ripped a double down the left field to score Maris. Leadoff hitter Luke Swenson stroked a one-out single before junior shortstop Brandon Trinkwon bounced into a fielder’s choice. Notre Dame head coach Mik Aoki dipped into the bullpen, bringing in Donnie Hissa to relieve starter Nick McCarty. Hissa promptly gave up a triple to first baseman Tyler Kuresa, who launched a 1-0 pitch into the right field corner to plate Swenson and Trinkwon. Freshman designated hitter Robby Nesovic capped off the rally by cashing in Kuresa with an RBI single through the left side, making the score 5-0 at the end of the fourth inning.
McCarty, who was making his first collegiate start, suffered the loss for the Fighting Irish, dropping his record to 2-3. He walked four batters in just 3.2 innings while allowing four earned runs, five hits and striking out one.
The Gauchos tacked on a run in both the fifth and seventh innings off of an RBI single from Swenson and a Parker Miles sacrifice fly, respectively.
Though the Gauchos bullpen did a solid job collectively, giving up just two runs over five innings, there were some struggles.
In the sixth inning, Notre Dame was able to get a pair of runs across as four of the first five batters in the frame reached via a single or walk. Senior righty Jared Wilson entered the game with one out and runners on the corners, and immediately got an out by picking off the runner at first after faking to third. Wilson saved the Gauchos from further damage by striking out Charlie Markson to end the inning.
The Fighting Irish carried their momentum into the seventh, loading the bases after three consecutive one-out singles. Freshman righty Kenny Chapman entered the game for the Gauchos, who recorded a controversial 1-2-3 double play on the very next at-bat. After Chapman fielded the grounder and threw home to catcher Jackson Morrow. Morrow’s throw to first struck batter Lane Richards on the shoulder. Richards was judged by home plate umpire Scott Keene to be out of the baseline, making the play an automatic double play.
Chapman and fellow freshman Dylan Hecht teamed up to shut down the Fighting Irish during the final two innings of the game. Chapman’s ERA dropped to 5.28 after his two scoreless innings, while Hecht recorded his fifth scoreless outing in six attempts.
Kuresa led UCSB’s offensive efforts, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Swenson had a pair of hits in his first start as the leadoff hitter to raise his average to .333, while Trinkwon and Newell each scored a pair of runs. Nesovic went 1-for-2 on the day, and now has a three-game hitting steak. Freshman left fielder Dalton Kelly went 1-for-3 in his first collegiate start.