No. 5 UCSB Baseball (38-12, 22-3) scored three in the ninth inning to claim a come-from-behind victory over UC Riverside(8-39, 4-23) Friday night. Jordan Sprinkle walked it off with an RBI sac-fly that saw the Gauchos win it 9-8 and are now one win away from sealing the Big West Championship.
In the eight spot, Sprinkle did a ton of damage collecting four RBI and a triple to go with a run scored and a stolen base.
Broc Mortensen led the team with three runs as he touched home every time he got aboard. He went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks.
Once again, Christian Kirtley and Bryce Willits extended their on-base streaks to 38 and 36 games respectively. Kirtley and Willits both doubled and combined for three runs.
Nick Vogt saw his 21-game hit streak ended, but drew a walk and has now reached base safely in 22 straight games.
Nick Welch was the pitcher of record improving to 4-3 on the year with 1.2 innings of scoreless, two-hit ball. He struck out two and threw up a huge zero in the top of the ninth to keep it a two-run ball game.
UCSB struck first in the opening inning as Willits doubled toward right center, and an RBI sac fly by Kyle Johnson brought him home to score the first run of the game.
The Highlanders responded with three runs at the top of the third to take their first lead, but then the Gauchos found their footing in the fourth frame. Mortensen walked followed by a single from Kirtley that gave two on and one out for Sprinkle. The shortstop wasted no time unloading a triple toward right-center to bring them home.
However, UCR continued to score in the fifth inning, retaking the lead 6-3, and added another run in the seventh to go up 7-3.
Not to be deterred, Sprinkle reached base and stole second, and Klassen’s single drove him home, but the Gauchos would be limited to the one run stranding runners aboard in the 7-4 ball game.
The eighth saw UCR score its eighth and final run but once again the Gauchos answered in the bottom half. A lead off single by Mortensen and a Kirtley hit by pitch got the inning started. Sprinkle then collected his first sac-fly of the day to score Mortensen and a John Newman Jr. cut the lead to 8-6 with an RBI single down the left line.
Welch went three up-three down in the top of the ninth, striking out two batters to keep the game intact for his offense.
With their backs against the wall, the Gauchos were poised in the ninth inning. Klassen led off with a single, followed by a Johnson walk and Mortensen walk that loaded the bases with one out. Next was Kirtley making it a one run game on a four-pitch walk and Darby tied it reaching on a potential double-play ball that turned into an error as the Highlanders’ first baseman couldn’t pick it from his glove.
Finally, in a 1-2 count, Sprinkle popped a low breaking ball deep enough to center field to score Mortensen on a walk-off sac-fly.
Daniel Moebus-Bowles writes about sports for UCSB.