Corey Lewis earned his first collegiate win and Marcos Castanon belted his second home run of the season to lead the No. 8 UCSB baseball team to a 12-2 win over Pepperdine on Sunday afternoon in Malibu.
The victory gave the Gauchos a four-game sweep of the Waves after winning 7-6 on Friday in Malibu and sweeping a doubleheader at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium on the UCSB campus on Saturday. It was a four-game sweep that required the Gauchos to come from behind in the first two games against an opponent that is picked to win the West Coast Conference regular season title this year.
“It’s tough to sweep anybody,” UCSB coach Andrew Checketts said. “You go to their place twice and play at your place twice, that’s hard to do. I don’t think Pepperdine is, just like we are, the finished product at this point.
“I think they’re going to be a much better team in a month than they were this particular weekend.”
UCSB trailed early in Friday’s series opener and fell behind, 5-0, in Saturday’s first game of the doubleheader in Santa Barbara.
“The first two games, grinding out those wins, they were ugly wins and not super clean with pitching and defense,” Checketts said. … “We had to come back, and I think there’s some character that’s built through winning games when you have to come from behind.
“I talked to the guys after the Santa Clara weekend (last weekend), and I told them it’s going to be like this all the time (the rest of the season with four-game series). It’s just going to be back and forth and back and forth. We’re going to get bloodied up and we’re going to have to wipe the blood off and punch back.”
UCSB (6-1) dominated the final two games of the series led by its outstanding pitching staff.
Rodney Boone started the third game and threw six no-hit innings in a 5-0 win, and Lewis — a redshirt freshman — was superb in his first collegiate start. The 6-foot-5 right-hander struck out nine, walked one while allowing three hits in five scoreless innings. Lewis, who tossed three shutout innings against Santa Clara on Feb. 19, retired the final nine batters he faced on Sunday.
“He’s got ice in his veins,” Checketts said. “Sometimes you’ve got to check him for his pulse because he doesn’t get too high and he doesn’t get too low. He’s shown a lot of poise so far with the three innings he threw on Opening Day, and today he came out and threw the ball well.
“He punched out a lot of guys and we’ve got to figure out a way to get his pitch count down a little bit so he can stay in the game a little bit longer.”
It was the Gauchos’ sixth straight victory after dropping the season opener to Santa Clara at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Going back to last season, UCSB has won 14 of its last 15 games. The Gauchos won eight in a row and were 13-2 when COVID-19 shut down the 2020 campaign. UCSB got to Pepperdine early on Sunday with a two-run homer by Castanon in the first inning. The Gauchos redshirt junior second baseman also had an RBI single in the second inning, when UCSB scored four times to take a 6-0 lead.
“He really is taking good at-bats,” Checketts said of Castanon. “It seems like he’s leaving the emotions out of it, and I think for him he gets into trouble when he gets too emotional. He’s taking his hits.
“He’s got runners in scoring position and he’s driving in runs and taking his hits instead of trying to drive it over the fence all the time. And then when he does get a pitch he can (hit a home run with) he gets it. He really feels like a complete hitter. … He’s become a really good hitter.”
UCSB took a 7-0 lead in the sixth when the Waves committed their fifth error of the game.
The Gauchos tacked on three more in the seventh, with two of the runs coming on McClain O’Connor’s single to left. O’Connor leads UCSB with 12 runs batted in.
The Gauchos return home on Friday to host Pac-12 power Oregon in the start of a four-game series. Checketts spent three years as the Ducks pitching coach before taking over the head coaching position at UCSB nine years ago.
He admitted that he’s disappointed that fans won’t be allowed at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium to watch the games.
“It’ll be unique with them coming down,” Checketts said. “There are a lot of people connected with the program that I have relationships with. I wish fans could be there because it would be a little bit of a reunion (for me) between players and coach (George) Horton, who’s in Southern California and would come up.
“So we’ll miss out on that opportunity, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”