CBB: Opportunistic Mustangs hold off Gauchos, 4-3

Cal Poly scored a pair of unearned runs in the fourth, added two earned runs in the seventh and then held on for a 4-3 win over ninth-ranked UCSB on Saturday afternoon in a Big West baseball game at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

For the second straight day, the Mustangs (16-19 overall, 5-3 in Big West) took a three-run lead into the bottom of the seventh, but this time UCSB (27-9, 5-3) couldn’t climb all the way out of the hole. Sophomore Shane Bieber (5-3) was the tough-luck loser for the Gauchos, while Kyle Smith (4-5) went 8.1 innings for the win.

Cal Poly took advantage of some fortunate bounces to claim a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth.

Brett Barbier opened the inning by lining a shot back at Bieber. The ball deflected off of the Gaucho pitcher’s glove into no-man’s land on the infield and Barbier was safe. With Barbier going on a 1-2 pitch, Jordan Ellis struck out on a ball in the dirt. UCSB catcher Campbell Wear, not realizing that with a runner on first Ellis was out automatically, scrambled after the ball and threw to first base. The throw got away from first baseman Robbie Nesovic and Barbier advanced to third and then scored when Ryan Drobny grounded out the Nesovic.

With two outs, John Schuknecht grounded to Clay Fisher at short. Fisher’s throw was in the dirt and Schuknecht was safe. Tommy Pluschkell blooped a single into left field to put runners on first and second. A wild pitch by Bieber advanced the runners to second and third. The next batter, Mark Mathias, who finished with three hits, lined a shot the ricocheted off Bieber’s foot, scoring Schuknecht.

UCSB got a run back in the bottom of the fourth. Woody Woodward and Nesovic opened the inning by walking and Cam Newell sacrificed them to second and third. Woodward scored when Scott Quinlan grounded out to shortstop for the second out of the inning.

The Mustangs tallied two more runs in the seventh, and again they took advantage of a break.

With one out, Peter Van Gansen hit a lazy pop-up to short left field that seemed to get caught in the wind. Fisher tried to make the catch but the ball fell behind him and Van Gansen cruised into second with an infield double. Brian Mundell then rocked a double into the gap in right center field, scoring Van Gansen. A single to left by Zack Zehner put runners on first and third and brought about a pitching change, with freshman lefty Kyle Nelson replacing Bieber.

Barbier hit Nelson’s second pitch down the line in right. UCSB right fielder Luke Swenson made the catch, but Mundell came home with his team’s fourth run.

Santa Barbara chipped away with a run in the seventh on an RBI single by Fisher and another in the eighth when Woodward scored on a wild pitch, but a ninth inning rally was squelched by Cal Poly relievers Danny Zandona and Taylor Chris, helping the Mustangs even the series at a game apiece.

Cal Poly finished with 16 hits and the first three batters in their lineup – Mathias, Van Gansen and Mundell – each had three hits. Fisher was the only Gaucho with more than one hit as he collected a pair of singles.

The Blue-Green Rivals will play the final game of the three game series on Sunday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. Dillon Tate is slated to make the start for the Gauchos.

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