By ERIC BOOSE
UCSB SPORTS WRITER
The UCSB baseball (16-4, 4-1 Big West) had climbed all the way out of a 3-0 hole and was three outs away from their 12th straight win, only for CSUN (13-5, 3-2 Big West) to score four runs in the ninth inning and take Saturday’s game, 7-4.
Seven of the game’s 11 total runs were scored after the seventh inning stretch.
Matt Ager worked his fifth quality start of the season Saturday evening, pitching seven innings for the Gauchos, and he was essentially perfect in six of them. The sophomore started hot, striking out the first two Matadors he faced, and retiring the first six in a row.
It was just the third inning that caused Ager problems, as CSUN started the frame with a double, a single, and a double to score a pair of runs before recording an out, then tacked on another run with a one-out single. But from there, Ager was right back in control, picking off the runner at first, then getting out the next ten 10 batters he faced. That stretch included a pair of punchouts in the fourth and a nifty, between-the-legs play to end the fifth. He only allowed one more hit, a lead-off single in the seventh, before his day was done.
Ager finished his evening in line for the win, as the Gaucho offense had woken up in the fourth, then rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the seventh. After being held hitless through three innings, Zander Darby led off the fourth with a single through the left side, and LeTrey McCollum drove him home later in the frame, cutting the Matador lead to two.
UCSB recorded a hit in each of the next three innings, finally on the board again in the seventh.
Nick Oakley started the inning by getting hit by a pitch, then Christian Kirtley drew a one-out walk as a pinch hitter, putting a runner in scoring position for Ivan Brethowr. The sophomore outfielder poked a single through the right side, scoring Oakley and sparking a hit parade. Darby singled to left to tie the game, then Aaron Parker gave the Gauchos the lead with a looping single to center field.
Carter Benbrook relieved Ager to start the eighth, giving up nothing more than a bunt single before returning for the ninth inning. Disaster struck almost immediately, as Benbrook gave up a lead-off double, then a bloop single to put runners on the corners with nobody out. The lefty was lifted for Sam Whiting, but things did not get better. Whiting’s outing went: RBI single, sacrifice bunt, strikeout swinging for out number two, intentional walk which loaded the bases, two-RBI single, RBI single before UCSB was finally out of the inning, trailing 7-4.
The Gauchos got the leadoff man on to start the ninth, but could not muster a rally.
Matt Ager remains a workhorse for the Gauchos, still leading The Big West in innings pitched (38). He worked seven on Saturday night, allowing three earned runs on five hits, striking out six without issuing a walk.
With his RBI single in the fourth inning, LeTrey McCollum extended his hitting streak to seven games; he is batting .478 in that stretch.
Ivan Brethowr owns the longest hitting streak on the team, recording at least one in each of his last eight games.
• Justin Trimble played the final two innings at shortstop on Saturday after Corey Nunez was pinch-hit for in the seventh. He is the first Gaucho other than Nunez to play the position this season
Eric Boose is assistant director of athletic communications at UCSB.