Matt Wilkerson has company atop the UCSB baseball career home run list. Against Cal Poly on Saturday, Broc Mortensen launched his 42nd homer as a Gaucho, tying Wilkerson for the most career long balls in school history. Mortensen’s homer, a solo shot, scored the fourth run of the game for Santa Barbara (35-16, 18-8 Big West), helping the Gauchos defeat Cal Poly (19-33, 9-17 Big West), 4-2, securing the series win over their rivals from San Luis Obispo.
Thanks to Long Beach State’s win over Cal State Fullerton on Saturday night, the Gauchos are now in sole possession of first place in The Big West with four games to play. Currently, Santa Barbara needs to win all four remaining games to claim the conference title.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Mortensen was not the only Gaucho hitter to leave the yard on Saturday; Zander Darby got the scoring started with an opposite-field solo shot in the first inning, just over the wall and just inside the foul pole down the left field line.
Santa Barbara tacked two more runs on the board in the second inning, thanks to some small ball. With John Newman, Jr. on second and two outs, Nick Oakley smacked a grounder to Cal Poly’s first baseman, who made a great play to glove it, but Oakley hustled down the line, forcing a quick throw, which the pitcher could not handle as he covered first base. Not only was Oakley safe, but the ball rolled away into the Mustangs’ dugout, allowing Newman, who had advanced to third on the play, to come home and Oakley to take second. Corey Nunez lined a base hit back up the middle to plate Oakley from second and make it 3-0 Gauchos.
On the mound, Mike Gutierrez was solid through his three innings of work, allowing just an unearned run in the top of the third, while tallying four strikeouts. The only hit he allowed was a double, which would come around to score in that third inning on a throwing error which would have made the third out.
Tyler Bremner relieved Gutierrez to start the fourth and was excellent, working 4 2/3 innings and earning the win. He allowed just three hits and only one run on a fifth-inning solo home run. The freshman righty struck out six Mustangs and walked only one.
He had also been pitching with extra insurance, thanks to Mortensen. The redshirt senior, playing his penultimate game at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, got all of a two-strike pitch to lead off the fourth inning, sending it well over the right field wall for his 11th home run of the season. That long ball also tied the UC Santa Barbara record for home runs in a career, Mortensen’s 42nd in a Gaucho uniform.
With the score still at 4-2 in the top of the eighth, Hudson Barrett relieved Bremner with two outs and runners on first and second, promptly stranding them there. The freshman lefty was back out for the ninth and collected his sixth save of the season, allowing just one walk before striking out the final batter of the game.
ON THE STAT SHEET
• Broc Mortensen tied Matt Wilkerson’s career home run record in 49 fewer games (167 to 216), with Mortensen averaging a home run basically every four games. His next home run will put him alone atop the list.
• Tyler Bremner earned his fifth win of the season in relief, working 4 2/3 innings, allowing just one earned run on three hits and one walk, while striking out six Mustangs.
• With Christian Kirtley, John Newman, Jr., Broc Mortensen, and Corey Nunez all collecting base knocks in Saturday’s game, every Gaucho to record a plate appearance in this series so far now has at least one hit.
• Hudson Barrett collected his sixth save of the season on Saturday. His single strikeout keeps him atop The Big West’s freshman strikeout leaderboards, ahead of teammate Tyler Bremner by one K.
Eric Boose is assistant director of athletic communications at UCSB.