The 2019 Big West Championship came down to the final game of the regular season and the UCSB baseball team exacted sweet revenge on Cal Poly with a 7-0 win on Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, the Gauchos claimed their first outright Big West title since 1986 and ended Cal Poly’s season, despite dropping the first two games of the series, which set the stage for the de facto conference championship game.
“You couldn’t ask for any more drama than to do it on the last day after losing the first two games against our rival,” said UCSB coach Andrew Checketts. “There were a lot of emotions going on as you would expect from a rivalry game.”
It was Senior Day for UCSB, but freshman lefthander Rodney Boone stole the show with 8.1 shutout innings on the mound, including 12 strikeouts.
Boone never gave Cal Poly a chance to get going as he worked a lethal fastball changeup combination to keep the Mustangs off balance.
“We’re all behind each other and we love each other and it makes it that much easier to trust each other,” Boone said. “This is phenomenal. I can’t describe it.”
After struggling with breaking ball’s in the first two games of the series the UCSB offense set the tone in the bottom of the first inning. McClain O’Connor led off the inning with a lined drive into left field and Andrew Martinez followed with a single up the middle that bounced off the glove of Cal Poly center fielder Bradlee Beesley, allowing O’Connor to come all the way around to score.
Eric Yang followed with a single to right field and Armani Smith drove in Martinez with a groundout to second base, increasing the UCSB lead to 2-0.
The Gauchos tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the third when Armani Smith singled up the middle to bring home Martinez after another error by Beesley in center field. The next batter, Thomas Rowan walked and Tommy Jew followed with a single that drove in Smith, giving UCSB a 4-0 lead.
“We were able to lay off the balls in the dirt. We had some at bats get away from us, but for the most part we were able to lay off the balls in the dirt,” Checketts said. “We’ve been working on that all week and it took us three games to get there to be able to really lay off and execute that game plan.”
In the bottom of the fourth inning, O’Connor tripled down the right field line to score Tevin Mitchell from first base. Martinez followed with a sac fly extending UCSB’s lead to 6-0.
Mitchell added a solo homer to left field in the bottom of the sixth, his fifth of the season, to close the scoring.
For Boone, a relatively unheralded recruit out of Tustin High, the seven runs didn’t enter his thought process as he dominated into the ninth inning before giving way to closer Chris Lincoln with one out to a standing ovation.
Lincoln struck out the first batter he faced Connor Gurnik before inducing Cole Cabrera into a ground out to end the game and set off the celebration.
The No. 4 ranked Gauchos (45-9 overall, 19-5 Big West) will learn their postseason fate during the NCAA selection show on Monday morning at 9 a.m.