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UCSB Wins Thriller in Bottom of Ninth, 8-7

Comeback caps Gauchos' sweep of Northridge in Big West doubleheader.

Chris Fox’s walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth propelled UCSB to its fifth-straight victory as the Gauchos defeated Cal State Northridge, 8-7, on Saturday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. After the Matadors tied the game in the top of the eighth, the Gauchos refused to go into extra innings, rallying with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to win a wild one.

UCSB (17-7, 2-0) and Northridge (10-12, 0-2) combined for 25 hits, eight errors and 22 runners left on base in Saturday’s four-hour, Big West Conference thriller.

With two down and nobody on, second baseman Steve Cook started the ninth-inning rally by lining a base hit into right field. Brian Gump singled up the middle in the ensuing at-bat as Cook, a junior transfer from SBCC, raced around to third, putting runners on the corners. Fox strolled to the plate looking to add to his already impressive 3-for-5, three-RBI performance, and he delivered in a big way. He laced the first pitch he saw from Matadors closer Edwin Quirarte up the middle, scoring Cook for the walk-off victory. Fox’s fourth hit of the day was also his fourth RBI as the designated hitter and pushed his season average to a lofty .391.

The Gauchos gained an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first as Fox singled in Gump to get the scoring started.

The Matadors would strike back, roughing up Gauchos starter Mario Hollands (3-1) in the third. A walk, four-straight singles, a hit batsman, another walk and an RBI groundout plated five runs for the Matadors, as they took a 5-1 lead into the fourth.

The Gauchos battled back, scoring twice in the fourth, once in the fifth and three times in the sixth to regain the lead, 7-5.

Hollands settled down after the third, retiring seven-straight Matadors before eventually allowing a bunt single in the top of the sixth. Hollands went six innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, while striking out two and walking three. Saturday’s effort marked the fifth time in six starts that the redshirt freshman pitched at least six innings.

Mike Zuanich repeated his stellar Friday performance with another two-run home run to the deepest part of the yard. After Eric Oliver led off the inning with a single, Zuanich unloaded on a Phil Hann offering, driving the ball deep over the centerfield wall to bring the Gauchos within two, 5-3.

Hann (1-3) lasted 5.2 innings, allowing seven runs (four earned) on 10 hits, while striking out two and walking none.

After the Gauchos scored a run on another RBI hit from Fox in the fifth, Robby Cummings got the sixth-inning rally started with an RBI single up the middle. With runners on second and third, Fox delivered his third RBI hit of the game, dumping a single into left field to bring Cummings home. Oliver followed Fox with an RBI single of his own, ripping a pitch up the middle to put the Gauchos in front, 7-5, after six innings of play.

The Matadors knotted things at 7-7 by scoring twice in the top of the eighth, courtesy of two hits and two Gauchos errors.

Zach Samuels came on in relief of Kyle Brown, retiring both batters he faced to preserve the 7-7 tie heading into the bottom of the ninth.

That’s when the resilient Gauchos rallied with two outs to steal game two of the three-game series from Northridge.

Fox was 4-for-6 on the day, with four RBIs. Oliver went 3-for-5 with a run scored and one RBI, while Gump scored three times in a 2-for-5 effort.

Samuels (1-1) earned the win, while Quirarte suffered the loss.

Click here for Saturday’s official box score and play-by-play.

UCSB will be looking for a series sweep of the Matadors at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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