Matt Ager picked up his eighth save of the season. | Credit: Victor Bryant

A strong Saint Mary’s team pushed the UC Santa Barbara baseball team to the brink, but the Gauchos refused to fold.

The 4-3 victory increased UC Santa Barbara’s home winning streak to 22 games as the Gauchos are undefeated at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium this season. UC Santa Barbara is also fighting for the right to host a regional based on recent postseason projections.

“Obviously, the elephant in the room for us is, we’re trying to play for some postseason positioning,” said UC Santa Barbara coach Andrew Checketts. “We know what’s out in front of us in terms of the conference standings and all that stuff, but every win is big at this point.”

Six UC Santa Barbara pitchers combined to hold the Gaels’ offense at bay. Cole Tryba got the start and pitched out of trouble in his lone inning of work. Jed Decooman followed on the mound and surrendered one run on two hits in the top of the second inning.

The Gauchos answered with one run in the bottom of the second inning after Nick Oakley singled to lead off the inning and scored on LeTrey McCollum’s ground out.

The visiting Gaels added another run in the top of the third off UC Santa Barbara relief pitcher Frank Camarillo on a two-out double by Christian Almanza followed by a single off the bat of Ryan Pierce. However, Zander Darby put the Gauchos ahead, 3-2, with a two-run homer that narrowly cleared the right-center field fence in the bottom of the third inning.

“I was working that left-on-left matchup and I knew he was going to come with some slider, and I hooked one foul that I knew was a good miss,” Darby said, adding, “3-2 [count] I was ready for the fastball, but then adjusted to that slider and just took my best swing on it and got good results from it.”

Perhaps the key to the victory was the strength of the UC Santa Barbara bullpen in the idle innings. Jackson Flora pitched two scoreless innings before giving way to Calvin Proskey, who retired the Gaels in order on seven pitches in the top of the seventh inning.

In the meantime, the UC Santa Barbara offense tacked on a run in the bottom of the sixth inning to increase its lead to 4-2. Aaron Parker grounded into a double play with runners on first and third with no outs, and Darby scored on the play. 

Matt Ager came on to pitch the final two innings of the game for UC Santa Barbara, but after retiring Saint Mary’s in order in the top of the eighth inning, he ran into trouble in the ninth.

Saint Mary’s batters Pierce and Diego Castellanos singled to open the inning, and Nathan Chong singled with one out to score Castellanos. With the go-ahead run on base, Ager retired the next two batters to secure the victory for his eighth save of the season.

“Matt was interesting; he came out and had a three-pitch inning, and then actually in his second inning, his stuff was a lot better and the velocity was picking up,” Checketts said. “He started to look more like himself; it felt like he was holding back a little bit early, but that second inning, once he got in a little bit of jam, it felt like his stuff improved and he made some big pitches there.”

UC Santa Barbara (36-12 overall, 20-4 Big West) will travel to Cal State Northridge for a three-game series beginning on Friday at 3 p.m.

Get News in Your Inbox


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.