The UCSB baseball team was one play away from sweeping visiting Cal State Fullerton for the first time since 1986, but the Titans rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth inning to secure a 7-6 victory in the series finale between the two teams on Sunday afternoon.
“It was a competitive game. A good back-and-forth game. A lot of Sunday games are like that,” said UCSB Head Coach Andrew Checketts. “We’ve got to figure out a way to finish that thing.”
The Gauchos received a big boost from pinch hitter Blake Klassen in the bottom of the eighth inning as he crushed a 3-0 pitch over the right-field fence for a two-run homer that gave UCSB a 6-4 lead.
However, UCSB closer Ryan Harvey couldn’t shut the door in the top of the ninth inning. Cal State Fullerton pinch hitter Austin Schell doubled to right field with one out, and the next batter, Caden Connor, sent a perfectly placed bunt down the third-base line that was misplayed by the UCSB defense, which allowed Schell to score on the play, cutting the Titans’ deficit to 6-5.
A lined single to center field by Jackson Lyon followed by a Brendon Bobo walk loaded the bases with one out. Pinch hitter Jake Gentry then grounded to first base for what appeared to be a game-ending double-play ball, but a throwing error from first base to shortstop allowed Lyon and Bobo to score.
“I’m disappointed of course, but we’ve got to bounce back and go. I think we feel like we’re in the right spot. Obviously, we wanted the sweep,” said UCSB star shortstop Jordan Sprinkle, who went 2-for-4 at the plate with a run scored. “We battled the whole game, so it was a tough one, but I think at the end of the day, we’re going to use that momentum and not take these Sunday games for granted.”
UCSB starting pitcher Ryan Gallagher surrendered four earned runs in 3.2 innings of work. But Michael Rice came on in relief and delivered a solid performance, holding the Titans scoreless over 4.1 innings with three strikeouts.
Sprinkle, Broc Mortensen, and Jason Willow all finished with two hits for UCSB.
The No. 25-ranked Gauchos will travel to Saint Mary’s for a non-conference game on Tuesday before traveling to UC Davis for a weekend series beginning on Friday.