Gauchos undone by Mustangs, 15-7

Sunday hasn’t been kind to the UCSB baseball team in conference play this season and Sunday hammered that point home. Nothing seemed to go in the Gauchos’ favor in the rubber-match of a three-game series with Cal Poly and UCSB suffered a 15-7 Big West setback to the No. 13 Mustangs at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium as a direct result.

Bad hops, bad calls, bad fielding and bad pitching caught up with the Gauchos, who gave up nine runs in the final four innings after rallying to tie Cal Poly 6-6 with a three-run fifth.

Former Santa Barbara Don Mason Radeke recorded the win in his first game facing the Gauchos, pitching six innings and striking out four to improve to 3-1 for the 29-10 Mustangs.

“It meant a lot to pitch well out here in front of all the family and friends,” admitted the freshman right-hander, happy to be a part of a winning team. “We’re playing great. We have good chemistry and we’re having fun. It’s great.”

Box Score

Cal Poly is now 10-5 in conference while UCSB evens out at 6-6.

“We took a step backwards,” said UCSB head coach Bob Brontsema, whose team hasn’t won a Sunday get-away game in conference yet this season. “This would have been a big step forward but it was a step backwards. But we still have opportunities ahead of us.”

The Gauchos are in fifth place with four league series to go. Three of those are against teams ahead in the standings: at Fullerton, and home against Long Beach St. and a regular-season closing set with league-leading UC Irvine.

UCSB will have to play better than it did on Sunday if it wants to improve its position come the postseason.

The bad breaks started in the first inning on a routine grounder from Wes Dorrell that took an insanely bad bounce, kicking past Eric Oliver and into right field to score Ryan Lee.

In the third inning, Ryan Cavan roped a line drive down the first base line that clearly fell in fair territory. First base umpire Dick Flaherty ruled the ball foul and UCSB head coach Bob Brontsema was out of the dugout and into shallow right field to argue the call in no  time.

Brontsema picked out the spot he thought the ball hit and got his money’s worth in a vociferous protest before being thrown out by Flaherty.

“I just thought it was a terrible call. I don’t know how he misses that,” said the normally mild-mannered Brontsema, noting how important calls like that can be in a tight game. “I overrected probably a little bit. I don’t like how I handled it but I did.”

Radeke induced a fly-ball out from Cavan two pitches later and UCSB went down quietly.

The Gauchos also have themselves to blame, having handed the Mustangs as many baserunners on walks and hit batsmen (11) as Cal Poly got hits. Cavan also committed three errors at third base. Cal Poly’s Lee scored three runs without a hit and No. 9 hitter Kyle Smith scored four times on only one hit.

The Mustangs’ six-run sixth came just after UCSB had rallied from four runs back to tie it at 6-6, seemingly breaking UCSB’s spirit.

J.J. Thompson led off with a single and then, after Thompson moved over on a sacrifice bunt, Greg Davis hit Smith and walked Lee and Matt Jensen to force over a run. Pinchhitter Adam Melker came through with a two out, 2-RBI single. Relief pitcher Patrick McIntyre was brought in to stem the bleeding but promptly gave up a 3-run homer to right field.

UCSB tacked on a run in the ninth but was mostly tied down by Jared Eskew, who pitched three innings to get his first save in relief of Radeke.

To pour salt on the wound, UCSB’s Brian Gump had his 14-game hitting streak snapped.

The Gauchos face Cal State Bakersfield at home on Tuesday (2 p.m.)  before the weekend series at Fullerton.