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UCSB Slips Past Long Beach State in Big West Baseball Opener

UCSB’s J.J. Muno makes a backhanded play at shortstop during the Gauchos’ 3-2 win over Long Beach State. Click to view larger
UCSB’s J.J. Muno makes a backhanded play at shortstop during the Gauchos’ 3-2 win over Long Beach State. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

UC Santa Barbara opened its Big West schedule on a positive note Friday afternoon, edging Long Beach State, 3-2,  at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium behind 7.1 strong innings from starter Noah Davis. 

Davis, who allowed two earned runs on six hits over his outing, shook off a pair of solo home runs from the Dirtbags (14-11, 0-1 Big West) to pick up his fifth win of the season in seven decisions. 

UCSB (11-12, 1-0) went ahead for good when junior shortstop JJ Muno slapped a double into the left field corner to plate Tommy Jew to make it 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh. 

With the help of relievers Kevin Chandler and Steven Ledesma, the Gauchos made that one-run lead hold up. 

Noah Davis went 7.1 innings and picked up his fifth win of the season. Click to view larger
Noah Davis went 7.1 innings and picked up his fifth win of the season. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Though Ledesma went 1-2-3 in the ninth for his first Division I save, the Gauchos needed to escape a jam in the eighth. Long Beach put runners on the corners with just one out, leading UCSB pitching coach Matt Harvey to bring in Chandler. 

That move paid off as Chandler got Ramsey Romano to roll over on the first pitch he saw, chopping a grounder to third baseman Tevin Mitchell. On contact, the Dirtbag runner on third broke for home, but Mitchell was able to quickly gather the ball and throw home for the big second out. Chandler then induced a flyout from three-hitter Luke Rasmussen to end the frame. 

The Gauchos had to fight back from single-run deficits on two occasions earlier in the game against reigning Big West Pitcher of the Year Darren McCaughan. 

The Dirtbags ace retired the first 10 batters, but the Gaucho hitters eventually made adjustments and were able to get some good swings off their second and third time through the order.

UCSB struck first in the fourth, with DH Josh Adams rolling a grounder through the middle to drive in Billy Fredrick, who scored from second after reaching on a one-out bloop single, the Gauchos' first hit of the game.

Fredrick moved into scoring position thanks to an opportunistic bunt on a 3-0 count from right fielder Armani Smith, who laid one down the third base line and got to first before Romano, LBSU's third baseman who was positioned way behind the bag on the play, could make the throw. 

Smith came up big again for UCSB his next time up, teeing off on a 0-1 fastball from McCaughan and sending it over the center field fence for his first career homer. 

Long Beach tied the game in the next half inning with a solo shot from Brooks Stotler.

"McCaughan got elevated a little later in the game, and Armani did a good job of making him pay for being elevated," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "That was a big-time swing by JJ, and a good response after Noah gave up the home run."

The Gauchos and Dirtbags continue their series Saturday with a 2 p.m. contest that will be streamed live on UCSBGauchos.com. Junior left-hander Kyle Nelson (3-2, 3.48 ERA) is scheduled to start for UCSB opposite Long Beach righty John Sheaks (2-1, 4.25 ERA). 

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