The UCSB baseball team began the season on Friday night the way it ended last season: with a loss to Sacramento State.
Gaucho starter Rodney Boone struggled, allowing four runs in three innings, while Hornets starter Parker Brahms cruised into the sixth inning to lead Sac State to a 6-1 victory in the start of a three-game series in Sacramento.
UCSB, which lost to the Hornets in last season’s Stanford Regional, had very little in the way of offense against Sac State’s ace. The right-hander allowed one run on three hits with seven strikeouts and no walks in 5 ⅔ innings. Brahms’ first 17 pitches of the game were strikes, and the Gauchos only had two three-ball counts against him.
UCSB’s only run against Brahms was a solo home run by second baseman Marcos Castanon in the fourth inning.
“He’s good,” Gaucho coach Andrew Checketts said. “He’s got something sneaky and some swing-and-miss stuff. We kept fouling pitches back and swinging underneath them. He did a nice job. They didn’t give us anything and we gave them a lot.”
UCSB has a fair number of returning players from last season’s team that advanced to the fourth NCAA postseason in Checketts’ first eight years. But the Gauchos also have some new faces in the form of freshmen and junior college transfers.
And some of that newness showed.
UCSB had very few quality scoring chances off of Brahms and two relievers, and the chances the Gauchos had, they couldn’t cash in.
“We’ve got to swing the bats better than that moving forward,” Checketts said. “I think there are going to be some growing pains with the group early, but it’s tough to win when (your pitching staff) walks eight guys.”
Boone, who was 8-0 as a freshman last season, suffered his first loss as a Gaucho. He allowed the four runs, all earned, on only three hits in three innings. But the left-hander walked four and threw four wild pitches.
“He wasn’t very sharp and I thought he gave the hitters way too much credit,” Checketts said. “He was dancing around the strike zone and nibbling and slowing his arm down on changeups. I didn’t think it was a very mature start, not something we expected to get out of him. I thought, in general, he was not in attack mode.”
One bright spot that came out of the loss for UCSB was the relief work of freshman Ryan Harvey.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander tossed 3 ⅔ innings. He allowed two runs, with both coming after Harvey retired the first two batters in his final inning of work. He struck out four and walked three in what was, for the most part, a solid collegiate debut.
Another UCSB pitcher who will make his Division I debut today is left-hander Zach Torra. The former Santa Ynez High and Cuesta College standout will get the start for the Gauchos in today’s second game of the three-game series at 2 p.m.
“He’s got a good arm, he’s got a good fastball, the breaking stuff is good,” Checketts said. “It looks like Sac State is taking some pitches.
“They’ve got some situations where they’re not swinging. It seems to be the plan at certain times, so it’s going to be important for him to be aggressive and be in attack mode and force them to swing the bats.”