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UCSB Baseball Team’s Incredible Season Ends in Omaha

Gauchos blanked by Arizona, 3-0, in elimination game at College World Series

The UCSB baseball team salutes the Gaucho fans at TD Ameritrade Park following its elimination from the College World Series. Click to view larger
The UCSB baseball team salutes the Gaucho fans at TD Ameritrade Park following its elimination from the College World Series. (Michelle Bishop photo)

UC Santa Barbara’s historic baseball season came to an end at the College World Series.

In a battle of teams that were longshots to be playing in Omaha, newcomer UCSB fell to Arizona, 3-0, in an elimination game Wednesday at TD Ameritrade Park.

The Gauchos (43-20-1) struggled against Arizona's JC Cloney. They collected five hits off the left-hander and hit into three double plays. They finished the game with six hits.

"We could never get anything really going offensively," UCSB coach Andrew Checketts said in the post-game conference. "Cloney did a nice job of changing his speeds and staying off the middle of the plate."

Arizona coach Jay Johnson raved about Cloney's performance.

"JC was outstanding," he said. "We're not in the College World Series without; we're not in the NCAA Tournament without him. I don't think we've had a performance that good that he gave us tonight."

It helped that the Wildcats gave him a lead.

Arizona jumped on UCSB starter Justin Kelly for three runs in the third inning.

Cody Ramer led off with a single, Zach Gibbons walked and Bobby Dalbec hit a long fly to center field that Andrew Calica caught at the wall.  Ramer tagged and went to third base and eventually scored on Ryan Aguilar’s sac fly to center field for the first run. Jared Oliva then ripped a first-pitch two-run homer to left for a 3-0 lead.

"I was ready for a fastball and I jumped all over it," said Oliva.

There was still plenty of time for the Gauchos, who came back from 3-0 deficit in the ninth inning at No. 2 seed Louisville and earned their first-ever trip to the College World Series.

But the post-season magic wasn’t there on a hot night in Nebraska.

Trevor Bettencourt gave the Gauchos outstanding relief pitching against Arizona. At one point, he retired 13 straight batters. Click to view larger
Trevor Bettencourt gave the Gauchos outstanding relief pitching against Arizona. At one point, he retired 13 straight batters. (Michelle Bishop photo)

Devon Gradford and JJ Muno were on base with two outs in the fourth but Cloney induced Dempsey Grover to fly out to left to end the inning.

Kelly gave up a lead-off single to Kyle Lewis in the fourth and was pulled for Trevor Bettencourt, who was brilliant in relief. He struck out the next three batters in the fourth and retired 13 in a row before giving up a single in the eighth.

Kelly gave up three runs on seven hits.

"Kelly wasn't super sharp but he pitched his guts out," Checketts said of his starter. "Bettencourt was fantastic for us."

Bettencourt was pumped to pitch on the big stage. He allowed only one hit and struck out seven in five innings.

"I kind of made a plan that after my warmup pitches I was going to take a deep breath and look around the stadium and kind of embrace it," he said. "Every time I couldn't help but smile to know that situation was that intense, yet I could look around and just feel lucky to be here. It was cool. It was fun. I'm still not able to grasp it yet. I loved it."

Gaucho players exchange hugs after the team’s amazing season came to an end at the College World Series. Click to view larger
Gaucho players exchange hugs after the team’s amazing season came to an end at the College World Series. (Michelle Bishop photo)

Kyle Plantier singled to lead off the fifth for UCSB. With one out, Ryan Clark hit a grounder that deflected off Cloney to shortstop Louis Boyd who fielded the ball, stepped on second, avoided Plantier’s slide and completed the inning-ending double play.

Gaucho pinch hitter Ryan Cumberland led off the eighth with a single to right off Cloney and Josh Adams entered as a pinch runner. Arizona took Cloney out and brought in ace reliever Cameron Ming. Clark greeted Ming with a hard one-hopper, but it was nicely fielded by Boyd, who made a spin move and fired to second baseman Ramer, who finished the third double play turned by the Wildcats.

"Louis and Cody are as good as anybody in college baseball on making the routine play and making the double play," Johnson said. "They solidified the whole deal for us."

The win was the Wildcats' fourth in an elimination game during the NCAA Tournament.

UCSB made them nervous in the ninth. Clay Fisher opened with a double in the left-center field gap and Devon Gradford walked, bringing up Austin Bush. Ming responded to the pressure and fanned the Gaucho slugger. He then struck out Muno and Dempsey swinging to end the game and UCSB's unforgettable season.

The Gauchos caught fire in the postseason, winning three straight games to capture the Vanderbilt Regional in Nashville and knocking out Louisville in two games, the second game being decided by pinch-hitter Sam Cohen’s walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

"It's special for our program," said Checketts, who took the Gauchos to the College World Series in only his fifth year as coach. "When people go home they get a little emotional. I promised myself I wouldn't, but for these kids  to get here, to get this opportunity for our program, it's unique. At the end of the game, all I could do was go out there and thank them for their effort, hard work, commitment, thank them for representing our university the right way  and playing hard. As a coach, you can't ask for more from a group of guys."

Checkett learned how special it his to play in Omaha.

"It's so difficult to get here," he said. "Having never been here before, once you get here you understand how people get it in their blood and want to come back because the experience is so special."

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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