Jordan Sprinkle’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning drove in Broc Mortensen from third base and lifted the UCSB baseball team to a 9-8 victory over UC Riverside on Friday night.
The Gauchos were playing catch up for much of the game after a rare subpar performance from ace Corey Lewis, but rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to secure the win.
“They caught us flat footed early. We’ve got to give UC Riverside a lot of credit. They came out and played baseball very well,” said UCSB coach Andrew Checketts. “ Bryce Willits doubled to start the game and I bet everybody in the dugout thought this was going to be pretty easy today and they punished us for having that thought process and not being ready.”
UCSB (38-12 overall, 22-3 Big West) is now one win away from clinching the Big West regular season championship and a berth into NCAA regionals.
The goal is to finish the job on Saturday and play better baseball in the process against a UC Riverside team that only has eight wins on the season.
“The most important thing is to win another game and make sure that we go to regionals,” Checketts said. “I think that would be the priority and then it’s to play better.”
The Gauchos struck first on Friday night on a sac fly by Kyle Johnson that scored Bryce Willits from third base.
However, UC Riverside scored three runs in the top of the third inning when Badawi doubled down the left field line driving in Anthony Mcfarland to even the score at 1-1.
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Later in the inning, Jacob Shanks delivered a two-out double down the right field line that scored Danny Carnazo and Badawi, increasing the Highlanders’ lead to 3-1.
UCSB evened the score at 3-3 in the bottom of the fourth inning on a triple to right-center by Sprinkle that drove in Christian Kirtley and Mortensen.
But UC Riverside immediately responded and chased Lewis from the game in the top of the fifth inning with three runs highlighted by an Andrew Rivas’ double to right-center that brought home Badawi and Mcfarland. The Highlanders took a 6-3 lead when Dylan Orick singled to right field driving in Rivas.
Trailing 8-6 going into their final at bat the Gauchos finally imposed their will on the game. A leadoff single by Blake Klassen set the stage for the big inning. UCSB then displayed patience at the plate in working three walks, the last of which by Kirtley, drove in Vogt from third base, cutting the UCSB deficit to 8-7.
The next batter, Zander Darby reached on an error by UC Riverside that scored pinch runner Jessada Brown to tie the game to tie the game at 8-8.
“I think there’s a lot of offensive talent in our group and we’re dangerous against college bullpens,” Checketts said. “I thought they did a good job of not chasing there late and not trying to hit five-run homers. Just taking at bats, getting on base and setting up that final inning.”