The UC Santa Barbara baseball team is once again the champion of the Big West Conference, sealing the deal Saturday afternoon with a 6-0 win over UC Riverside. It is the fourth title in program history, and the second in three seasons as head coach Andrew Checketts becomes the first Gaucho skipper to bring home the trophy twice.
UCSB has now officially punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with four regular season games still to go. It will be the third straight postseason appearance for the Gauchos, the fifth in seven seasons, and the sixth in the Checketts era.
To this point, the Gauchos boast an impeccable 23-3 Big West record, which if the season ended today would be the best conference win percentage in program history at .884. They also hold a 39-12 overall record and will search for their fifth 40-win season since 2015 tomorrow afternoon.
Mike Guiterrez (7-1) took the bump to start and saw the longest outing of his DI career, pitching a full eight innings. He racked up four Ks and gave up zero runs.
Nick Vogt went 2-for-4 with a double, a triple, and two RBI.
Christian Kirtley and Bryce Willits each extended their on-base streaks to 39 and 37 games in big ways. Kirtley went yard for a two run home run and Willits was nearly perfect, going 2-for-3 with two walks and two runs.
John Newman Jr. and Broc Mortensen each hit solo homers.
Recording the final three outs was Ryan Harvey who posted a 1-2-3 top of the ninth.
Both teams threw up zeros until the Gauchos broke through in the bottom of the third on Kirtley’s bomb, a two-run shot that gave UCSB a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Vogt roped a two-out triple to center field that just got over the outstretched glove of the Highlanders’ center fielder and scored Willits to make it a 3-0 ball game.
Two more came across in the bottom of the seventh on Mortensen’s 13th homer of the season and an RBI double by Vogt.
The final run of the night came in the eighth as Newman Jr., who came just short of a homer in his previous at-bat, got it to go this time, sending it deep to left field.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, a foul ball began to tail out of play but was miraculously caught by Willits, who tracked it down to seal the game and the Big West Championship.
Daniel Moebus-Bowles writes about sports for UCSB.