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Austin Bush Leads UCSB Offensive Explosion in 14-2 Romp Over Hawaii

Dempsey Grover is greeted at home plate by JJ Muno (9), Austin Bush (44) and Josh Adams after belting a three-run homer.
Dempsey Grover is greeted at home plate by JJ Muno (9), Austin Bush (44) and Josh Adams after belting a three-run homer. (Javier Delarosa / Noozhawk photo)

No. 16 UC Santa Barbara produced multi-run rallies in five separate innings and junior right-hander Shane Bieber allowed just one run over seven full in a strong bounceback effort as the Gauchos blew out Hawaii 14-2 in Friday's Big West series-opener at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

Sophomore first baseman Austin Bush went 3-5, tied his career record by driving in five runs, and opened the scoring for UCSB (27-10-1, 6-4 Big West) with a two-run homer to lead the offensive assault after Hawaii (18-21, 7-6) snagged the lead with one run in the top of the first.

The Gauchos finished just two runs short of their season high (16 against Bryant on Feb. 27 in the Tony Gwynn Classic) and won their 14th straight game at home, tying a program record.

"Our guys did a good job offensively," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "We got swings off when the other team made mistakes and obviously Bush had a pretty special day today, he hit that ball a long way and had some other good at-bats as well. He gave us the momentum we needed."

Though Bush was UCSB's biggest threat on Friday, he was far from the only one to have a productive day with the bat.

Sophomore catcher Dempsey Grover hit a big three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth, while left-sided infielders Clay Fisher and Ryan Clark both had a pair of hits. Junior right fielder Devon Gradford also had a big day with two RBIs while backup catcher Sam Cohen made the most of his one at-bat, smashing a liner off the top of center field wall for a two-run double, missing his first career home run by about a foot.

After receiving zero run support in his start last week against Cal Poly, Bieber made the most of his big lead against the Rainbow Warriors with an efficient 80-pitch outing. He gave up a pair of hits and a long sacrifice fly in the first, but he was excellent from there on out, putting a runner into scoring position on just one other occasion for the rest of his outing.

He easily could have finished the last two innings of the game, but with a 14-1 lead and three straight complete games under his belt, Checketts opted to get him some rest. He improved to 8-2 on the year after receiving the decision, matching his single-season career high for victories.

Freshman righty Kevin Chandler finished off the last two innings, allowing a run in the eighth.

"Bieber didn't have pinpoint fastball command today, but his offspeed stuff was good," said Checketts. "He did a good job at minimizing damage. Hawaii had a couple chances for runs, but that's why he's good: he turns potential three-run innings into one-run innings and potential two-run innings into no-run innings."

UH starter Brendan Hornung was tagged with the loss after allowing eight runs in four innings. Though both of UCSB's home runs came against him, he didn't help himself with a walk and three hit batsmen. Relievers Josh Pigg and Isaac Friesen combined to give up six runs, but only three earned, over the final four innings of the contest.

The Gauchos will go for the series win tomorrow afternoon, with righty Joe Record (4-4, 4.11 ERA) making his first Saturday start of the year. He will be opposed by Hawaii righty Kyle Von Ruden (5-1, 3.01 ERA), with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m.

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