CBB: Tate, Gauchos beat Northridge in series opener

NORTHRIDGE  – The first eight batters of the first inning reached base for No. 11 UC Santa Barbara as part of a game-breaking 11-batter, six-run inning in an eventual 7-4 win over CSUN in Friday afternoon’s ESPN3-televised series opener at Matador Field.

The Gauchos (25-7, 3-1 Big West) moved into second place in the conference standings with the win, while the Matadors (20-12, 1-6) continued their rough start to Big West action after having jockeyed with UCSB for the best winning percentage among conference teams through the first two months of the season.

BOX SCORE

Junior righty Dillon Tate, who was named a Golden Spikes Award Nominee on Thursday and the Midseason Pitcher of the Year by Division I Baseball on Friday, had his fortune swing back to the mean against the Matadors, as he received the win to improve to 5-3 despite having one of his more ordinary starts of the year. The Claremont, Calif. native allowed four runs on nine hits with two walks and four strikeouts in a seven inning outing.

CSUN’s own right-handed starter, Calvin Copping, took the loss to fall to 4-3. He was on the mound for the entirety of UCSB’s first inning rally, but rebounded admirably after that, allowing just two hits and no runs over the remainder of his outing. He finished the day with six runs allowed on seven hits with a pair of walks and three punchouts in five full.

Sophomore center fielder and UCSB leadoff hitter Andrew Calica set the tone for the first inning carousel by going the other way on a 2-1 pitch, powering a line drive past the CSUN left fielder for a double.

Copping’s usually-trusty control then went out the window, as he issued a walk to Cameron Newell, hit Woody Woodward with a first pitch fastball, and then walked in the first run on a free pass to Robby Nesovic.

The next four UCSB batters – Luke Swenson, Dalton Kelly, Peter Maris, and Clay Fisher – smacked an RBI single each. Aided by a Copping curveball that reached the backstop, the Gauchos pushed across five runs with that quartet of base hits, each of which went back up the middle save for Kelly’s opposite field line drive.

It could have worse in reality for Copping, but the CSUN ace recovered to strike out the next two batters after Fisher’s demoralizing grounder through the middle on an 0-2 count, ending the inning on a Newell flyout to left.

The Matadors did their best to mount a comeback against Tate, scoring runs in three of the first four innings.

CSUN cleanup hitter Nolan Baumstad plated a run in the first by sitting back on a Tate breaking ball, smacking it down the third base line for an RBI double. A run-scoring groundout in the third plated another for the Matadors, who then cut the UCSB lead to just a pair of runs with a two-run fourth inning, capped off by a Ryan Raslowsky RBI single.

Tate really settled down after the fifth inning, retiring six consecutive battings to close out his afternoon.

His first baseman, Kelly, made a big play to close out the fifth. With runners on the corners and two outs, CSUN tried to steal a run by putting the runner at first in motion. UCSB catcher Campbell Wear made a fine throw to shortstop Clay Fisher, who then threw back to Kelly to initiate a rundown.

Kelly kept pace with Dylan Alexander, the runner at first, as he scurried towards second while keeping his eye on CSUN shortstop Yusuke Akitoshi at third. When Akitoshi broke for home, the left-handed Kelly went against his body and delivered a strike to plate in time for Wear to apply the tag and end the inning.

Swenson gave the Gauchos some much needed insurance in the ninth inning with a sacrifice fly.

Nesovic, also serving as the UCSB closer, entered the game in the eighth inning with two outs and two on trying to record his fourth save of the season.

The junior righty ended that eighth inning threat with a harmless popup to second baseman Woody Woodward, then allowed just a single in the ninth to lock down the game and give UCSB the series-opening “W.”

A staple of Tate’s time as UCSB closer in 2014, this was the first save for Nesovic that required more than three outs.

By virtue of his leadoff double, Calica has now reached base in 31 consecutive games while recording a hit in 19 of his last 20 starts.

The Gauchos go for the series win tomorrow behind junior southpaw Justin Jacome (5-1, 2.05 ERA), who has allowed just four runs while striking out 31 over his past four starts. He will be opposed by fellow lefty Jerry Keel (4-2, 1.60).

ESPN3 will broadcast tomorrow’s game as well, with first pitch scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Legendary former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasora will be in attendance for Saturday afternoon’s contest and will be signing autographs for fans at the ballpark.

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