Valaika grabs big hit, Gardner shines for Gauchos

Thanks to Matt Valaika, UCSB’s men’s baseball team stood victorious against Big West Conference rival No. 12 Cal Poly with a walk-off victory at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium Friday.

“It was our biggest win of the year,” said junior infielder Gunnar Terhune.

Valaika came to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied, two outs and the bases loaded — every baseball player’s dream.

He promptly knocked base hit down the right field line, giving the Gauchos the win and a big boost to start this weekend’s three-game series against the Mustangs.

Valaika’s hit would not have counted for much, however, if it wasn’t for the stellar pitching of junior Joe Gardner, who struck out eight and allowed seven hits in UCSB’s second complete-game effort of the year.

Gardner, who is now 6-0, had a fantastic game with the exception of the fifth inning, in which Poly scored four of its five runs for the day.

First to bat for the Gauchos in the ninth was designated hitter Mark Haddow. He struck out, but he found his way to first thanks to a wild pitch. Next up, Terhune laid down sacrifice bunt. A poor throw from Poly’s first baseman to second hit Haddow and left the Gauchos with two on and no outs.

“I’ve made a lot of sacrifice bunts in my carrier,” Terhune said, “But that was one of the biggest —Thank God Mark’s fast.”

Next up was Brian Gump, who used a sacrifice bunt to advance runners to second and third. Earlier in the game, Gump hit a single to center extending his hitting streak to 13 games.

With two outs, Poly elected to intentionally walk Eric Oliver, loading the bases and setting the stage for Valaika’s game-winning hit.

Gardner opened the game strong and didn’t allow any hits until the fifth inning. Despite a rough bout in the fifth, he regained his composure in the sixth.

“It was a great team effort, and we came through in the end,” Gardner said.

Gardner was flawless the rest of the game, holding Poly hitless and scoreless down the stretch.

Cal Poly’s Ryan Lee and Matt Jensen, with 26 and 23 game hitting streaks respectively, came to UCSB looking keep their streaks alive. Terhune and the Gaucho defense, however, would not let it be.

UCSB improves to 23-12 overall and 6-4 in the Big West, while Cal Poly falls to 27-10, 8-5.

Cal Poly returns to UCSB tomorrow for game two of the three game series.