Freshman pitcher carries no-hitter into eighth inning of sweep-clinching home victory over Stephen F. Austin
Rodney Boone was looking for a bounce-back performance.
He got it in a big way.
The freshman left-hander flirted with a no-hitter to lead the No. 19 UCSB baseball team to a 7-0 win over Stephen F. Austin on Sunday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Boone didn’t allow the only hit against him until Skylar Black’s one-out single in the eighth inning. He was relieved by another freshman sensation, Michael McGreevy, after allowing the soft line-drive single to right.
Boone, who struck out three, gave the ball to UCSB coach Andrew Checketts and walked off the mound to a standing ovation. His longest and most dominant outing of the season allowed the Gauchos (23-5) to complete a three-game sweep of the Lumberjacks.
It was UCSB’s fourth three-game sweep of the season.
“He did a good job,” Checketts said. “He gave us a chance, threw up zeros, and obviously a no-hitter had a chance to be exciting. Everybody was aware of that.”
No one in the stadium wanted Boone to enter the UCSB record books with a no-hitter more than his coach, who was an All-American pitcher himself at Oregon State.
But Checketts admitted he was a little relieved when Boone gave up the eighth-inning single, for one very important reason.
“His pitch count was up a little bit, so there was a piece of me that was hoping that he gave up a hit so we could get him out of there,” the Gauchos eighth-year coach said. “He did a great job.
Boone relied mostly on two pitches to get the job done.
“He had a fastball and changeup going. He didn’t need his breaking ball today, and he didn’t use it a lot,” Checketts said. “He threw a lot of strikes and it was a good outing.”
Boone allowed a two-out walk to Manny Vasquez in the first inning and hit Black with a pitch with two outs in the second.
That would be it for Stephen F. Austin (14-19) until Black’s single in the eighth. Boone went on to retire 17 in a row from the second inning into the eighth. He threw 104 pitches and received some outstanding defensive help from four of his teammates in particular.
UCSB third baseman Jason Willow made a terrific play to rob Brandon Uhse of a hit in the second. Junior center fielder Tommy Jew made the play of the game with a head-first diving catch of Vasquez’s sinking line drive in the fourth.
Junior catcher Eric Yang made a difficult catch of a foul popup that was hugging the screen behind home plate in the fifth, and junior shortstop McClain O’Connor saved a hit with a superb play on a grounder to his right to throw out Nick Daley in the sixth. Sophomore Cole Mueller was also impressive on O’Connor’s play by digging the ball out on a tough one-hop throw.
All in all, it was the Gauchos’ best performance of the weekend after they got only two hits in a 3-2 win on Friday, and overcame shaky pitching and four errors to win, 14-12, in 11 innings on Saturday.
For Boone, it was redemption after he was roughed up in his previous start at Cal State Fullerton on March 31.
He allowed five runs, four earned, on seven hits in 32/3 innings in what turned out to be an 8-7 UCSB win against the Titans.
“I think I was as calm as I looked,” Boone said with a smile when asked if he was getting nervous in the latter innings. “I just told myself, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.'”
Yang, who had two hits, scored two runs and drove in a run, took off his mask and dropped it to his side after Boone lost the no-hitter in the eighth. He and the rest of his teammates were disappointed for their southpaw stud.
“I missed my spot (on that pitch), and he was disappointed I missed my spot,” Boone said. “I’ll hit that spot next time.”
UCSB provided plenty of offense for Boone with two runs in the fourth, two in the fifth and three in the seventh.
Senior designated hitter Thomas Rowan opened the fourth with a Mammoth blast over the left-field fence off Lumberjacks starter Jaxon Covington. The ball not only cleared the barrier, it sailed well over the 25-foot net behind the fence.
It was the second home run of the series and fifth of the season for Rowan, who finished with two hits and two runs batted in.
“In my first at-bat, I got on top (of the ball) a little bit, still hit it hard,” Rowan said. “In my second at-bat, I just tried to get under it more. Thankfully, I got it on the barrel (of the bat) and it found a way to get out.”
Willow, Andrew Martinez and Tevin Mitchell joined Rowan and Yang with two hits apiece for the Gauchos. Martinez and Willow also drove in two runs each.
UCSB plays at Pepperdine in a non-conference series on Tuesday before returning home for a big three-game Big West Conference series against UC Irvine beginning Friday. The Anteaters lead the conference with a 5-1 record, while the Gauchos are 2-1.