Aaron Parker hit a two-run home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday, but it only cut the deficit to four, as the UCSB baseball team (35-17, 18-9 Big West) fell to Cal Poly (20-33, 10-17 Big West) in the series finale, 9-5. With Cal State Fullerton and UC San Diego both winning, the Gauchos now must sweep Hawai’i next weekend to keep their conference championship hopes alive.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After Santa Barbara left runners stranded on second and third in the first inning, it was Cal Poly who struck first, scoring a pair of unearned runs in the top of the second. An error allowed the lead-off man to reach, then a double scored the first run. That Mustang would come around to score on a pair of groundouts before the end of the inning.
The Gauchos answered in the bottom of the third, scoring a pair to tie the game, but they were seconds away from taking the lead. After Nick Oakley and LeTrey McCollum started the inning with back-to-back singles, Jared Sundstrom was robbed of a home run in the cruelest of fashions, as the pitcher was called for a pitch clock violation right before delivering the ball Sundstrom rocketed 420 feet to left center. But by rule, it was just a ball, and Sundstrom ended up popping out. Zander Darby eventually brought Oakley and McCollum home with a game-tying single to right center.
However, things quickly went downhill for the Gauchos. Three singles, three walks, and a hit batter, most of them with the bases loaded, resulted in four Mustang runs in the top of the fourth. Santa Barbara got one of those runs back in the bottom of the fifth, thanks to a two-out RBI single from Christian Kirtley, but Cal Poly regained their four-run lead in the top of the sixth on an RBI single of their own.
The Mustangs extended their lead late thanks to a bit of luck, as a high fly ball bounced off the top of the fence and over for a two-run home run in the eighth, just staying inside the foul pole too. Parker hit a two-run homer of his own in the bottom of the ninth to bring the Gauchos back within four, but that would be all for Santa Barbara.
ON THE STAT SHEET
– Six of UC Santa Barbara’s nine graduating players — Kirtley, Alex Schrier, JD Callahan, Broc Mortensen, Sam Whiting, and Carter Benbrook — featured in Sunday’s Senior Day game. The three players not to appear were Mike Gutierrez, who pitched three innings on Saturday, as well as Clayton Hall and Logan Barnier, who both missed out due to health reasons. All nine players were honored before the game.
– Aaron Parker led the Gauchos at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI, plus a walk.
– Schrier was the only Santa Barbara pitcher not to allow a run on Sunday, working the final 1 ⅓ innings, allowing just one hit and two walks.
– Oakley went 1-for-4 and scored a run as he continued his good series against the Mustangs. He hit .400/.455/.800 over the weekend.
UCSB heads to Honolulu for the final series of the season, with a chance at winning The Big West Championship. The Gauchos will need to win all three of their games against Hawai’i Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and need Cal State Fullerton to lose one game at Cal Poly to take the title. UC San Diego would win the title with a Gaucho loss.
All three games in Honolulu will begin at 9:35 p.m. Pacific time, live on ESPN+. Live stats and an audio only broadcast will be available on ucsbgauchos.com.
Eric Boose is assistant director of athletic communications at UCSB.