Marcos Castanon hit UCSB’s third home run of the day — a three-run shot in the seventh inning — to rally the Gauchos to their third-straight baseball victory, 7-6, at Pepperdine on Friday.
“Balls weren’t staying in the ballpark today,” UCSB coach Andrew Checketts said, noting that the Waves hit four homers of their own. “But we battled, did a good job offensively and really competed out there.”
UCSB junior Christopher Troye, a 6-foot-4 righthander with a fastball that approaches 100 mph, ended the slugfest after getting summoned from the bullpen in the ninth inning. He struck out the side for the second straight game to record his second save of the season.
“He’s starting to figure out who he is a bit,” Checketts said. “A year ago, before he got hurt, he tried to be Shane Bieber and was throwing the ball off the corners. For him, it’s really all about, ‘Can you throw your fastball at the top of the strike zone and land your breaking ball in the dirt?’ He doesn’t need to be any fancier than that.
“He’s clearly looked really good.”
The eighth-ranked Gauchos (3-1) got solo homers from Jason Willow in the second and Christian Kirtley in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead.
But Pepperdine’s Reese Alexiades and Ryan Johnson hit back-to-back homers against UCSB starter Zach Torra to take the lead during a three-run fourth. The Waves (1-3), the coaches’ preseason pick to win the West Coast Conference, touched up the preseason All-American for six hits and four runs in four-plus innings.
UCSB drew to within 4-3 in the sixth when Castanon led off with a double to deep centerfield and scored on another double to deep center by Kirtley.
Castanon went 2-for-4 to keep his season batting average at .500 (7-for-14). Kirtley and Willow also went 2-for-4.
Willow led off the seventh with a bloop double to left, was sacrificed to third by Mason Eng, and scored the game-tying run on McClain O’Connor’s line drive single to left field. Cole Cummings followed with a single to left, setting up Castanon’s go-ahead homer to center. The blast put UCSB ahead 7-4.
“He’s so good, with his bat speed and his ability to do stuff at the plate,” Checketts said of Castanon. “He’s finally at a point in his career where he’s able to take what the pitcher gives him. He’s had much more mature at-bats.”
Pepperdine hit consecutive homers for the second time — the first by Justin Lutes, followed by Alexiades’ second of the game — to rally to within 7-6 in the bottom of the seventh.
The Waves kept the rally going after Conner Roberts was summoned in relief. A single, a hit batter, and a groundout put the tying and go-ahead runs at second and third bases with one out.
But Roberts got the second out at the plate on a bouncer to Cummings at third base. Kirtley then ended Pepperdine’s rally with a running, back-handed catch near the left-field flag pole, keeping UCSB ahead 7-6.
“Kirtley played a really good left field, made a couple of good plays look pretty easy, especially for a guy who hasn’t played a ton out there,” Checketts said of his converted infielder. “And he was especially good at the plate.”
Roberts picked up the pitching win, allowing just one hit with two strikeouts in two innings. Troye needed just 14 pitches to strike out the side in the ninth.
“It can be pretty deflating for the other side,” Checketts observed. “You go into the ninth, in a pressure situation in which those last three outs are tough to get, and we bring in somebody like that.”
The two teams will resume their four-game series with a noon doubleheader today at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The series will conclude on Sunday with a 1 p.m. game at Pepperdine.