Reigning Big West Player of the Week Armani Smith hit a go-ahead, three-run home run in the sixth inning to propel the No. 7 UC Santa Barbara baseball team to a 6-3 victory over Saint Mary’s on Tuesday afternoon.
It was the sixth straight win overall and 15th straight at home, as the Gauchos (37-7) improved to 22-1 at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium after the victory in their penultimate non-conference game of the year.
It was also just the 14th time this season UCSB was outhit, 11-10, and found themselves trailing after the Gaels brought a run across on two hits and two walks in the first.
The Gauchos responded in the second inning with a solo shot to left center off the bat of Andrew Martinez, but SMC answered back with a solo home run of its own to lead off the third and regain the lead, 2-1.
Jorge Arellano Jr. started on the mound for Santa Barbara and lasted 3.2 innings, scattering six hits while allowing the two runs and walking three with one strikeout. Conner Dand came out of the bullpen in the fourth and settled into a groove, holding the Gaels scoreless for 2.1 innings.
Eric Yang, who was hit by a pitch three times in the game, singled to lead off the sixth, as UCSB still trailed 2-1. Thomas Rowan followed with a double down the left field line. With two on, Smith hit an opposite-field home run, his 10th of the year, to put the Gauchos on top for good, 4-2.
A RBI single for SMC in the eighth made it a one-run game, but a clutch two-out, two-RBI single from Tevin Mitchell in the bottom half of the inning gave the Gauchos a pair of insurance runs to seal the deal.
Chris Lincoln came on for a four-out save and struck out all four to pick up his 13th save of the year, one off the UCSB single-season record.
Dand picked up his third victory of the year, while Trevor Beer and Shea Barry also pitched in relief.
Smith led the way offensively, ripping his eighth triple of the year, also one off a UCSB single-season record, to go along with his three-run home run. Martinez finished 2-for-4 with a RBI and a run while Yang, Mitchell, Rowan, Tommy Jew, Kyle Johnson and McClain O’Connor all tallied one hit apiece.
UCSB returns to Big West play this weekend when it hosts Long Beach State for a three-game series beginning on Friday, May 10 at 3 p.m.