No. 8 UC Santa Barbara finishes first sweep of UC Irvine since 1990
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Five different players scored runs for No. 8 UC Santa Barbara and four different batters drove in runs as the Gauchos took an egalitarian approach to victory in Sunday's 6-5 senior-day win against No. 30 UC Irvine at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, giving the team its first sweep versus the Anteaters since the 1990 season.
The six seniors on Andrew Checketts' squad -- Peter Maris, Luke Swenson, Woody Woodward, Cameron Newell, Scott Quinlan, and Campbell Wear -- were all honored before the final home game of the year for UCSB (39-13-1, 15-6 Big West).
It was those seniors who got things started for the Gauchos on Sunday, but UCSB's freshman class helped create and then seal the lead with a number of clutch performances late in the game.
Newell opened the contest's scoring with a first-inning RBI single, then Swenson and Wear knocked in another pair of runs on sacrifice flies, pushing UCSB's advantage to 4-0 by the end of the fourth inning as Gauchos starting pitcher Shane Bieber mowed through the Anteaters (31-21, 13-8) lineup the first time through.
That would end up being the largest lead of the day for the Gauchos, as UC Irvine made adjustments against Bieber its second time through the order, plating three runs in the fifth inning on four consecutive hits and a sacrifice fly.
That Anteaters rally came to an abrupt end thanks to a heads up play from Fisher – who was UCSB's walk-off hero on Saturday – with two outs and a runner on second. UCI two-hitter Mikey Duarte chopped a grounder to Fisher in shallow short, and instead of trying to retire the batter at first, he threw to third where Maris was able to tag out the runner after he rounded the bag.
Another first-year player, designated hitter Kyle Plantier, then chipped in the eventual game-deciding hit in the bottom half of the fifth, smacking a line drive into the left field corner off UCI starter Evan Manarino for a two-run double to make it 6-3.
Irvine kept applying pressure to Bieber, but the Gaucho righty buckled down, allowing only one run further -- on a sixth-inning RBI base hit -- as he completed eight innings in his final home start of the year. The sinkerballer did well for himself, recording eight first-pitch outs on the day and inducing a pivotal double play ball in the seventh inning. He exited the game after fanning UCI catcher Jerry McClanahan for the final out of the eighth frame.
The Anteaters went on to launch one last assault in the ninth inning, as a leadoff double from Adam Alcantara was followed by a run-scoring single into left from Cole Kreuter. Those pair of hits prompted Checketts to bring in closer Robby Nesovic, who had been playing first base prior.
Without a bullpen warmup session, Nesovic struggled with control, and he was lifted after walking the second batter he faced on four pitches.
Making his first appearance of the series, freshman southpaw Kyle Nelson was successful in recording the final two outs of the game, though even that was not without drama.
Brought in to face UCI's lefty-hitting leadoff hitter Kris Paulino, head coach Mike Gillespie countered the Nelson move by substituting in right-hitting Andrew Martinez.
Martinez got a hold of a Nelson offering on a 2-2 pitch, sending it to left field for what appeared to be a go-ahead home run. After bracing against the wall for a potential leaping catch, UCSB left fielder Scott Quinlan instead took a couple steps forward and caught the dying fly ball on the edge of the warning track for the second out. A ground ball to short in the next at-bat sealed the win for the Gauchos.
It was the second save of the season for Nelson, who has now gone 24.2 innings without allowing an earned run, extending his record for a UCSB pitcher in the Checketts era (since 2012).
The fireman outing from Nelson preserved a win for Bieber, who improved to 8-3 on the year after a four-run, nine-hit, six-strikeout outing. For the sixth time in his past nine starts, he went without walking a single batter.
Manarino (6-3) took the loss for UCI, giving up four earned runs on seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts in five innings of work. The Anteaters' sole reliever, righty Alonzo Garcia, retired all nine batters he faced in a three-inning outing.