Starters shine in UCSB’s opening split

BAKERSFIELD To open the 2009 season, UC Santa Barbara’s baseball team received what it hopes is a sign to come for a successful year – superb starting pitching.

However, the No. 30 Gauchos ended up going 1-1 in a pair of games Sunday at Cal State Bakersfield, losing 8-7 to St. Louis and defeating Bakersfield, 10-0.

Mario Hollands, fresh off his Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year award, allowed just four hits over eight shutout innings in the second game of the day, striking out six and walking two. The sophomore followed up a fantastic start in the first game by Joe Gardner, who struck out 13 batters in seven innings while allowing just two unearned runs.

Hollands was aided by a 13-hit attack from the Gauchos, with five players recording multi-hit games. Senior shortstop Shane Carlson belted two home runs and had four RBI in the victory. Eric Oliver and Matt Valaika also homered while Bryce Tafelski, Robby Cummings and Steve Cook all doubled. Tafelski also had two runs batted in.

David Meals, making his first appearance as a Gaucho, relieved Hollands and struck out the side in the ninth to cap the victory.

Making his first start in a UCSB uniform, junior college transfer Joe Gardner allowed just five hits while striking out 13 batters in seven innings and left with a 7-2 lead. Both runs that Gardner allowed were unearned. Yet, the Billikens scored six runs in the final two innings against relievers Zach Samuels and Clayton Edwards, handing the Gauchos their first loss of the season.

St. Louis scored its first two runs of the eighth inning against Samuels without a ball ever leaving the infield. Sandwiched between a pair of walks was an infield single to load the bases, before first baseman Eric Oliver’s error allowed two runs to score. Samuels was pulled in favor of Edwards.

After a hit batter and fielder’s choice loaded the bases, Zach Miller singled up the middle to score two runs, cutting UCSB’s lead to 7-6 heading into the ninth.

But a one out, two-run double sank any chances UCSB had of opening the season with a win.

Brian Gump went 1-for-4 with a home run and two runs scored in the game, Robby Cummings had a pair of hits and an RBI, Mark Haddow had a double, a triple, a run scored and an RBI while Matt Valaika and Shane Carlson each had a pair of hits.

The Gauchos play their home opener on Monday vs. Westmont at 2 p.m. and for the first time ever UCSB is offering baseball season tickets. With every ticket purchased, fans receive a free baseball hat.

On Tuesday UCSB will host UCLA at 2 p.m. in a Pink Zone event to raise breast cancer awareness. The Gauchos will wear pink hats and wristbands and the pink hats will be available for purchase at the game.