CBB: Bush’s homer pushes Gauchos past Bakersfield

BAKERSFIELD – Despite being down to its final strike in the ninth inning, No. 8 UC Santa Barbara pulled of an 8-7 win over CSU Bakersfield on Tuesday night at Hardt Field, as freshman first baseman Austin Bush sent a hanging change-up deep into the Kern County night for a two-run home run, rescuing the Gauchos from a one-run deficit and giving them a victory over the Roadrunners just seven days after they ended UCSB’s bid for a perfect 2015 midweek ledger.


The ninth inning jack was a fitting end for a dramatic contest that featured four lead changes. The Gauchos were able to improve to 36-13-1 with the victory while the WAC member ‘Runners dropped to 30-20-1. Bakersfield had previously defeated UCSB 5-3 last Tuesday, handing Andrew Checketts’ squad its first midweek loss of the season.

Having finished their last midweek contest of the season, the Gauchos finish the year with a 9-1-1 mark in their 11 tilts played between Monday and Thursday.

After blowing a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth, things looked extremely dire for UCSB, who had two outs and nobody on in the ninth after CSUB left fielder Kris Cayton made a fantastic diving catch on a Luke Swenson blooper mere feet from the left field foul line.

Senior outfielder Cameron Newell, who was a late scratch due to a sore hamstring, then entered the game as a pinch hitter for the Gauchos, proceeding to put together a great at-bat as he fouled off a trio of 90 MPH offerings from CSUB closer Max Carter to work the count full before wearing an inside fastball on the hip to reach first.

Facing Bush, Carter got ahead in the count 1-2 by thowing three straight fastballs. However, on the 1-2 offering he decided to throw his change-up, and it didn’t fool Bush one bit, as he hammered it for his third home run of the year in what was just his sixth start of the campaign.

Now averaging a dinger every eight at-bats, the 6-5 Bush has the best HR/AB ratio on the squad.

The Gauchos led for most of the contest thanks to a four-run fifth inning. Sophomore center fielder Andrew Calica started the party with a lead-off walk, moving to third on Peter Maris’s double into shallow right center. After a Robby Nesovic sac fly plated Calica, four consecutive UCSB batters recorded hits to score another three runs, capped off by Swenson’s two-run double into right field.

Though he didn’t earn the win in the contest, freshman lefty Kyle Nelson was absolutely superb in relief for the Gauchos, tossing 4 2/3 innings with only an unearned run against. The outing extended his streak to 24 innings without having allowed an earned run, a record for any UCSB pitcher in the Andrew Checketts era (since 2012).

Fellow freshman hurler Chris Clements was also solid on the night, ended CSUB’s eighth-inning rally by getting Carter – who is also the Roadrunners’ DH – to foul out in front of the first base dugout with the bases loaded before going 1-2-3 in the ninth to close down the game, ending the contest by making Cayton fan at a slider off the plate.

Clements improved to 2-0 on the season with the decision.

A number of Gauchos had impressive nights with the bats as the team collectively banged out 14 hits. Maris (3-5) and Fisher (3-4) led the squad with three hits apiece, but every UCSB starter collected at least one base knock in the contest.

CSU Bakersfield made a late charge and took the lead in the eighth on a three-run rally, needing only two hits to do so. Usually reliable-in-the-zone Domenic Mazza struggled with his command for UCSB, walking a trio of batters and allowing a Cayton double down the left field line. Pinch-hitter Garrett Pierce drove in the tying and go-ahead runs on one swing of the bat, lacing a 3-2 changeup into left field for a two-run single.

Making his first appearance on the mound since Apr. 28 due to a hand injury, Nesovic started the game for the Gauchos and allowed three runs in 2 2/3 innings.

UCSB will play their final home series of the season this weekend as the team welcomes UC Irvine, who sits one game ahead of them in the Big West standings. The pivotal conference set will kick off Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m., weather permitting.