LONG BEACH – The UC Santa Barbara baseball team dropped a day-night doubleheader to Long Beach State on Saturday and in each game, a couple of well-timed hits could have changed things around.
The Gauchos lost the first game, 6-3, in which the team left 13 runners on base and then dropped the nightcap, 5-4, in 14 innings after holding a two-run lead in the 12th and leaving 13 more men on base. UCSB falls to 17-16 and 4-4 in the Big West while LBSU improves to 15-17, 6-2.
In the second game, right-handed starter Austin Pettibone was magnificent through the first five innings as both teams had trouble generating offense. The Gauchos actually led, 1-0, without getting a basehit through the first six innings.
Brett Vertigan’s base hit in the seventh – only the second of the night at that point by UCSB – gave the Gauchos a 2-1 lead. However, Long Beach State battled back to tie things up in a bit of foreshadowing.
Pinch-hitter Josh Guerra’s single off reliever Matt Vedo scored a run and the game was knotted at 2-2. From there, each team threatened but couldn’t break through for the next four-plus innings.
UCSB had runners on base in the eighth, 10th and 11th before coming through in the 12th. Vertigan singled, stole second and moved to third on Lance Roenicke’s sacrifice bunt. Brandon Trinkwon walked and he stole second to put runners on second and third with two outs. After Greg Mahle was intentionally walked, Marc Venning hit a chopper through the left side to drive in two. Venning’s ball, which tipped off the glove of Juan Avila as the third baseman ranged far to his left in the hole, was initially ruled a base hit, but later changed to an error.
Either way, UCSB led 4-2.
Santa Barbara, though, could not split the doubleheader that easily. Ino Patron’s one-out triple drove in a run and with two outs, Brennan Metzger hit a short blooper in the middle of the infield that landed in front of a hard-charging Steven Moon for a base hit, bringing in Patron and tying the game at 4-4.
In the bottom of the 14th, LBSU loaded the bases on a walk, a fielder’s choice that went awry and and another hit batter. After Matt Duffy walked to open the inning against Mahle, Patron tried to lay down a sac bunt. First baseman Marc Venning tried to throw to second to get the lead runner, but lost his footing and his throw sailed high, putting runners on first and second. Avila was hit by a pitch and after a foulout, a groundball could have sent the game to the 15th.
It was not to be. Mahle (0-2) hit Johnny Bekakis on a 3-1 pitch to force in the winning run.
In the first game, UCSB led 2-0 with single runs in the third and fourth innings. The Gauchos scratched out the first run on Ryan Palermo’s RBI double and scored in the fourth inning on Moon’s sac fly.
Freshman lefty Andrew Vasquez was confounding the 49ers hitters through the first five innings, but LBSU got to him four times in the sixth. Metzger’s sac fly got LB on the board and after a run-scoring single, the 49ers took advantage of a mental error.
On Guerra’s RBI single, he took a wide turn around first base and purposely got caught in a rundown. Juan Avila, who moved to third on the single, darted home when the catcher, Joe Winterburn’s throw went to second base. Avila slid in under the tag of Vasquez and that was it for the UCSB freshman.
The Gauchos, though, got a run back in the eighth on Moon’s base hit and then loaded the bases in the ninth.
Consecutive walks to Mahle and Venning, following Roenicke’s single, brought up the go-ahead run in the form of Luke Swenson. After working the count full, Swenson hit a ball down the first base line that Patron knocked down and then flipped to closer Kyle Friedrichs for the final out and the first game of the series.
The two teams square off in a 1 p.m. game on Sunday.