Jefferson P. Nolan
The 11-run sixth inning produced by UC Santa Barbara during Saturday’s matchup was a wake-up call for the Cal Poly baseball team, as the Mustangs dropped two of three games in their weekend series in Isla Vista.
But the Mustangs (21-8, 4-2 Big West) avoided a sweep as they snagged a 7-6 victory on Sunday after Saturday’s 13-2 loss clinched the series for the Gauchos (16-14, 3-3), having defeated the Mustangs the day before, 4-2.
The ill-fated sixth inning on Saturday resulted from a Cal Poly error, a trio of walks, a hit batsman and eight hits by the Gauchos. It marked the largest inning against the Mustangs in 18 years.
After winning two of three games against the Gauchos in a nonconference matchup just three weeks prior, junior center fielder David Armendariz drew first blood on Friday after three scoreless innings with a home run off the right-field foul pole.
The Gauchos responded with a quick run in the next half-inning as a bad hop — off the bat of outfielder Luke Swenson — skipped past first base and into right field. UC Santa Barbara continued to increase its lead after scoring an unearned run in the sixth.
Mustangs relief pitcher Reed Reilly was one pitch away from getting out of a jam in the seventh inning when UC Santa Barbara scored on a double steal with runners at second and third. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Kuresa drove in another run for the Gauchos to make it a three-run game.
After Armendariz’s solo shot, the only offense generated by the Mustangs was left fielder Jordan Ellis’ sacrifice fly to shorten UC Santa Barbara’s lead to 4-2.
And on Saturday, it just got worse.
What began as a 2-2 tie game morphed into a double-digit lead as the sixth inning fell apart for the Mustangs.
“It was just one of those innings,” head coach Larry Lee said. “The pitchers tried to get us out of the inning, but nothing seemed to work. It started by letting the lead-off hitter get on and, in the sacrifice situation, we weren’t able to get the out at first base. I think it just kind of snowballed.”
The Gauchos’ southpaw Justin Jacome allotted two runs and seven hits in an eight-inning outing; he walked two batters and struck out five.
Cal Poly sophomore Matt Imhof was credited with the loss after he surrendered four runs in five innings. Five relievers were used in the game for Cal Poly, but the damage proved to be too great.
As sophomore pitcher Bryan Granger took the mound on Sunday, the Mustangs fought to avoid a sweep.
Senior Denver Chavez began the scoring with a sacrifice fly to right field, putting Cal Poly on the scoreboard in the first inning. In the third, singles by Chavez and sophomore Nick Torres coupled with two fielding errors by the Gauchos contributed to a three-run inning for the Mustangs.
The fourth inning resulted in another two runs for Cal Poly, and it wasn’t until the seventh inning that the Mustangs ceased to keep the UC Santa Barbara offense at bay.
Junior infielder Brandon Trinkwon lined a single up the middle to score the Gauchos’ first run of the game, and redshirt sophomore Tyler Kuresa’s fly ball to left scored Trinkwon to make the score 6-2.
A single to center field by Cal Poly’s junior infielder Jimmy Allen added a much needed security run for the Mustangs because in the last two innings of the game, the Gauchos didn’t go away quietly.
UC Santa Barbara junior catcher Jackson Morrow began the eighth inning with a leadoff triple, and his hit opened up a four-hit, two-run inning. And after two Gauchos crossed the plate in the ninth, UC Santa Barbara’s junior Parker Miles reached on second base as the tying run. But Reilly left Miles stranded on second as outfielder Cameron Newell struck out, looking to end the game.
“We have to stay consistent on the mound,” Granger said. “Runs are going to come, but we just need to be solid out in the field and on the mound, and I think we’ll be alright.
The Mustangs will travel to Cal State Bakersfield for a nonconference matchup before hosting Hawaii for their third conference series of the season this upcoming weekend.
“The mentality we have will always be the same,” Armendariz said. “We have to play our type of baseball and get ahead early. Once we get ahead, we can tack on, but it was a big blow on Saturday. We just had to come out today and get the lead early on and get the lead-off outs. Those are the important things that we need to do well.”