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UCSB Baseball Makes History With Regional Title; Next Stop is Super Regional in Louisville

UCSB players celebrate their first ever berth into the NCAA Baseball Super Regionals after a 14-5 victory over Xavier on Monday.
UCSB players celebrate their first ever berth into the NCAA Baseball Super Regionals after a 14-5 victory over Xavier on Monday. (UCSB Sports Information)

NASHVILLE – UC Santa Barbara clinched its first ever berth into the NCAA Baseball Super Regionals after routing Xavier, 14-5, in Monday's title game at the Nashville Regional at Vanderbilt.

UCSB reliever Kyle Nelson pumps his fist in celebration during Monday’s Nashville Regional title game victory over Xavier.
UCSB reliever Kyle Nelson pumps his fist in celebration during Monday’s Nashville Regional title game victory over Xavier. (UCSB Sports Information)

The Gauchos, who went 3-0 and will next play at Louisville (50-12) in a best-of-three series beginning Friday, with a trip to Omaha and the College World Series at stake. This is the first time UCSB won a regional and its three wins are as many it's had in seven trips to the regionals combined. 

UCSB, which beat Xavier for the second time in as many days, won its 40th game of the season. The Gauchos (40-18-1) opened the Nashville Regional with a dramatic 14-inning 3-2 win over Washington on Friday, capped off by an Austin Bush home run.

"This is definitely a highlight in my coaching career," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "They're playing up to their potential and playing as a team. They've turned themselves into a good baseball team that has achieved. It's been a fantastic weekend. We made the big plays and made the big pitches and got the big hits, so I'm really happy for them."

Bush, who was named Tournament MVP, was one of four Gauchos to make the Nashville Regional All-Tournament Team, which also included Clay Fisher (7-15, five extra base hits, seven RBIs), Andrew Calica (6-13, four runs), and Justin Kelly (4 shutout innings pitch, 10 strikeouts, one win, one save). 

UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts gets a gatorade bath of celebration following Monday’s Nashville Regional title game victory over Xavier. Click to view larger
UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts gets a gatorade bath of celebration following Monday’s Nashville Regional title game victory over Xavier. (UCSB Sports Information)

In its first meeting with Xavier on Sunday, UCSB jumped out to a 5-0 lead and then had to hold on for dear life in a tense, 5-4 victory.

The script was flipped a bit in Monday's title game, as Xavier scored two runs in the first off UCSB starter Joe Record. 

His counterpart, Greg Jacknewitz, dominated the Gauchos his first time through the lineup, going nine-up, nine-down over the first three innings.

The Gaucho lineup made adjustments and blistered the southpaw their next time through, starting with a nine-run fourth inning. 

Jacknewitz walked Calica to lead off the fourth before the next two batters reached on errors, including one on the pitcher himself. Then Bush teed off on a first-pitch offering for a no-doubt home run to right field, his third homer of the regional. 

Jacknewitz hit JJ Muno and walked Dempsey Grover before receiving the hook. 

His replacement Damien Richard didn't fare better, allowing RBI singles to Kyle Plantier and Calica before Clay Fisher continued his torrid weekend with a three-run bomb over the high left field fence, the first home run of the sophomore's career. 

"Bush and Fisher really came through," said Checketts. "They were unbelievable offensively for the weekend and they carried us, driving in runs, getting on base, hitting homers. It was pretty amazing to watch."

UCSB was far from done with the bats, scoring in four of the five remaining innings in the game. 

On the pitching side, Record settled down after a shaky start. 

The sophomore right-hander made big pitches throughout his five-plus inning outing, but no wiggle job was more impressive than in the second inning, when he pitched out of a bases-loaded jam by inducing a harmless pop-up from cleanup hitter Andre Jernigan. 

Record retired the side in order in both the third and fifth innings. He ended the day with a line of five hits, three earned runs, six walks, and two strikeouts. 

He was pulled from the contest after allowing a leadoff walk in the sixth, and the UCSB bullpen combined to toss four solid innings of relief. 

Kevin Chandler started it off by striking out three in less than two innings pitched, and was solid aside from one mistake, a 2-0 fastball left over the plate to Nate Soria in the seventh, who deposited it into the left field bleachers for a two-run homer. Those were the first, and only, runs allowed by the Gaucho bullpen over the entirety of the regional. 

Sophomore lefty Kyle Nelson entered the tilt with two outs in the seventh, and proceeded to strand a pair of runners by fanning Matt Fallon on a backdoor slider. He proceeded to strike out four over two innings before making way for James Carter, making his postseason debut, who retired David Morton to clinch the win. 

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