A ninth-inning rally by the the UCSB baseball team fell short, and visiting USC escaped Caesar Uyesaka Stadium with a 5-4 non-conference victory on Tuesday night.
The Trojans scored two runs apiece in the eighth and ninth innings to secure the lead as the UCSB bullpen issued eight walks combined over the two innings.
“We’ve got to throw more strikes,” Checketts said. “You can’t win games when you walk that many guys and you’re non-competitive in the bullpen.”
The late-inning struggles overshadowed a solid performance by UCSB starting pitcher J.D. Callahan, who held the Trojans to one run on four hits over his 5.1 innings on the mound.
“I was just attacking early. Whenever I was ahead, it usually ended up well,” Callahan said. “They were really aggressive early in counts, so landing the off-speed early was a huge part of what went well today.”
Callahan got into a jam in the top of the fourth after walking the leadoff batter Adrian Colon-Rosado and surrendering a single up the middle to Garret Guillemette. The next batter, Nick Lopez, grounded into a double play, which allowed Colon-Rosado to score from third but limited the overall damage in the inning as the Trojans took a 1-0 lead.
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UCSB evened the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning as Zander Darby launched a solo home run to left field to leadoff the inning. Darby narrowly missed homering in his first at bat as his high flyball was caught at the right-field fence.
The two teams remained knotted at one run apiece until the top of the eighth when Nick Welch and Michael Rice each walked in runs.
The Trojans tacked on two more runs in the ninth inning on a two-run single by Lopez that scored D’Andre Smith and Tyresse Turner.
Trailing 5-1, the UCSB bats woke up in the bottom of the ninth inning. Nick Vogt led off the inning with a walk, and the next batter, Christian Kirtley, brought him home with a double that was lined to the left field corner, cutting the deficit to 5-2.
John Newman Jr. followed with a two-run homer to left field with one out in the inning, which cut the UCSB deficit to 5-4. The Gauchos brought the winning run to the plate when Kyle Johnson doubled to the left field fence with two outs, but the next batter, Jordan Sprinkle, sent a fly ball to right field that was caught in foul territory, ending the game.
UCSB (37-12 overall, 21-3 Big West) will look to clinch the Big West title this weekend during its three-game series against UC Riverside, beginning Friday, May 20, at 5:30 p.m.