The 13th-ranked UCSB baseball team grinded out an extra-innings, game one win over rival No. 30 Cal Poly Friday night, topping the Mustangs 10-7. Despite a flurry of costly errors, the Gauchos managed to escape with their 10th straight Big West win thanks to a three-run 11th inning.
Senior catcher Gianni Bloom was incredible in his first game back in the lineup since March 25 going 2-for-4 with a home run, a triple, a walk, and three runs scored. He plated the go-ahead run twice in the back-and-forth contest.
Blake Klassen proved to be unstoppable once again, going 3-for-6 with two home runs and four RBI. His two knocks came in clutch moments for UCSB and he now is tied for the team-lead with nine on the season.
Cory Lewis took the bump in the highly anticipated Friday matchup between he and Cal Poly’s ace Drew Thorpe and pitched well as both guys earned a no-decision. He tossed 5.1 innings and allowed just two earned runs on three hits while striking out nine. The righty hung five straight zeros on the board to start before the Mustangs finally broke through in the sixth.
Matt Ager (2-0) was the pitcher of record, picking up his second career collegiate win after entering in the 10th inning and keeping the Mustangs from scoring any extra-innings runs. He struck out five of the eight batters he faced.
UCSB did a great job of wearing down Thorpe early, drawing four walks the first time through the order and forcing a medley of full counts. The Gauchos’ patience helped them get out to an early lead with a three-run second inning.
With two outs and two on, Klassen drove in the first run on an RBI single and next was Willits who brought both runners in on a two-RBI single to left center.
The offense went quiet for both teams as Lewis was dealing, but on the third time through the lineup the Mustangs finally got the righty as they tied the game with a three-spot in the bottom of the sixth. Only two would be earned as a Gaucho error allowed one to score.
Bloom stepped to the plate with two-outs in the seventh and gave the Gauchos the go-ahead run with a solo shot that flew through the night air and over the wall in the left-center.
Down 4-3 Cal Poly answered again with a single run in the eighth to tie it at four apiece.
Into the ninth the Gauchos went, and the bats got going in a huge way as Bloom once again gave his team the go-ahead run, sending a triple to right field that scored Jason Willow. Klassen was the next batter up, scoring a pair of insurance runs with a huge two-run homer to right field that made it a 7-4 ball game.
The first game of this highly anticipated series turned out to be all it was hyped to be as the host Mustangs managed to answer once again and blow Ryan Harvey’s save opportunity with a three-spot in the bottom of the ninth. Two Gaucho errors would be the reason the tying run would touch home as the two teams headed to extras.
The Gauchos brought two runs into scoring position in the top of the 10th, but Cal Poly got out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts.
For the fifth time in the game, and the third by the Gauchos, a crooked number got hung on the scoreboard as UCSB posted yet another three-spot in the top of the 11th. Klassen led off the inning with his second straight bomb, a no-doubt solo-shot that put his team up 8-7 and would prove to be the game-winner. Insurance came three batters later as Nick Oakley stepped in for his first at-bat of the night and slashed a double down the right line to score a pair and extend the lead to 10-7.
Ager was solid in his two-inning win as the only batters he allowed to reach did so on an intentional walk and another Gaucho error.
The series continues tomorrow at 4 p.m. at Baggett Field. Mike Gutierrez is expected to make the start for the Gauchos.
Daniel Moebus-Bowles writes about sports for UCSB.