If you’re a fan of West Coast baseball, this game was entertaining. There was strong defense, a pivotal inning, and a bit of chess between the coaches. Arizona Junior JC Cloney made his 17th start on the mound. UC Santa Barbara took an unorthodox approach by running red shirt Senior Justin Kelly out there for only his 2nd start of the season.
Both teams indicated early that they had an aggressive game plan on the bases. Gaucho 2nd Baseman JJ Muno tested catcher Ryan Haug’s arm early by attempting to steal second base in the second inning only to find that Haug was up to the challenge. In the bottom half of the inning, JJ Matijevic made a base running error by running into a ground ball hit in front of him and was called out.
The bottom half of the third inning saw Arizona open the game up. Cody Ramer singled to right field, reached second after a walk behind him, and found himself on third after tagging on a pop up. Ryan Aguilar sac flied to score Ramer. With Zach Gibbons still on base, Jared Oliva hit the first pitch he saw well over the left field wall to make it 3–0 after three innings.
The Gauchos tried to answer back in the fourth but stranded two. Arizona kept the momentum going when Kyle Lewis singled to right field on a full count. UCSB immediately went to the bullpen and Trevor Bettencourt struck out the next three Wildcats with his sharp knuckle-curve. Coach Checketts seemed to have made that change one inning too late.
Cloney and Bettencourt traded 1-2-3 innings from then on until RS Sophomore catcher Dempsey Grover singled up the middle in the top half of the 7th for the Gauchos. It was for not though as Kyle Plantier grounded into a fielder’s choice two pitches later to end the UCSB threat before it even began.
Redshirt junior Ryan Cumberland lead off the 8th with a pinch hit fly ball to right field. Coach Checketts sensed this would be his best opportunity to score so he substituted RS Sophomore Josh Adams as a runner. That move prompted Coach Jay Johnson to bring in Cameron Ming to relieve Cloney’s outstanding effort. SS Louis Boyd made a slick play on a hot grounder to turn two. You could almost see the sun set on the Gauchos’ season right then.
Arizona finally found an answer to Bettencourt in the form of a well struck line drive to left off Bobby Dalbec’s bat in the bottom of the eighth. He had retired 13 straight. It was largely academic though because sufficient damage had already been done back in the third inning.
In a last gasp effort, Clay Fisher came to the plate in the top of the ninth with extending the season on his mind. To that end, he roped a double. Ming walked the next batter to bring 6’6” 265 lbs Austin Bush to the plate representing the tying run. Three straight breaking pitches sent him back to the dugout on strikes. Ming struck out the next batter too. Grover could not solve Ming either and the Gauchos ride came to an end.
Arizona would 3-0 and advance to play Oklahoma State in the National Semifinals on Friday.