CBB: Hot-hitting Gauchos complete sweep of Fresno St.

UCSB scored four runs over the first two innings and then applied steady pressure throughout the rest of the contest to take a 9-3 victory over Fresno State on Saturday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, finishing off a four-game sweep of the Bulldogs.

Their second four-game sweep in as many attempts this season, 12th-ranked UCSB now sits at 23-7 on the year. The Gauchos have won six straight and 10 of their last 11. The struggling Bulldogs fell to 16-17 on the campaign.

With a lineup featuring just four regulars, UCSB was still able to bang out 15 hits in the win. Senior right fielder Luke Swenson and sophomore catcher Paddy O’Brien led the way offensively with three hits each, while Swenson provided the decisive blow of the game, blasting a triple into the right-center gap in the second inning to score two runs, including the eventual game-winner.

Freshman infielder Clay Fisher has made the most of his opportunities since re-claiming his role as the starting shortstop on Mar. 20. He went 2-3 against the Bulldogs on Saturday and scored the game-winning run for the second straight game. Fisher has now recorded a hit in 11 of his last 12 games after doing so just four times in the season’s first 13 games.

Sophomore righty Shane Bieber was solid on the mound for the Gauchos, allowing two earned runs (three total) while scattering 10 hits over his 6 2/3-inning start. Coming into the game with the best strikeout-to-ratio walk on the staff, he punched out seven Bulldogs while walking one.

Bieber’s strikeout stuff helped him out of a jam that was a potential disaster for the Gauchos. Down 4-0 at that point, the Bulldogs managed to have their first four batters of the third inning reach. The last of those four, left fielder Kenny Corey, chopped an infield single off the glove of Bieber, and two runs ended up coming in after UCSB second baseman Woody Woodward mishandled the carom.

With the tying run on second base, no outs yet recorded and facing the heart of the Bulldogs lineup, Bieber dug deep and made their 3-4-5 hitters all strikeout swinging to escape the inning without further damage.

The Gauchos then gave themselves a comfortable lead again with a three-run sixth, highlighted by a two-run double off the bat of O’Brien, who now has four extra-base hits in 13 at-bats this season. Swenson and freshman first baseman Kyle Plantier added RBI base hits during the rally, bringing the score to 7-2.

Freshman lefty Kyle Nelson ended up shining in relief, striking out three batters in a four-up, four-down outing. He entered the game with two on and two out in the seventh, but ended the potential threat immediately by throwing a fastball that tailed back to catch the inside corner of the plate to strike out pinch hitter Aaron Aaruda looking.

Junior righty Robby Nesovic then pitched a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation.

Just two weeks removed from taking final exams, the Gauchos are in for another tough test next week, as they travel to Los Angeles on Tuesday night to take on eighth-ranked USC. UCSB handed the Trojans (25-6) their first loss the 2015 season back on Mar. 3 at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

After that showdown, the Gauchos will travel to CSUN to play the Matadors in a three-game Big West series starting on Friday.