UCSB showed its resiliency Saturday, winning 9-7 in the ninth inning against Houston at Cougar Field. After squandering a four-run lead in the eighth, the Gauchos scored a pair of runs in the top of the ninth to take game two of the three-game set.
Riding a strong outing from redshirt freshman Mario Hollands, UCSB (8-4) bounced back from Friday’s one-run effort, scoring nine times on 13 hits Saturday. Hollands pitched well enough to earn the win in his third start as a Gaucho, going seven innings, allowing three runs (one earned), on six hits, striking out three and walking none. He left the game with a 7-3 lead, giving way to Clayton Edwards in the eighth. A Gauchos error and four hits later, Houston (7-5) stormed back to tie the game, 7-7.
Determined not to go into extra innings, John DeAlba started the ninth inning rally with a lead-off walk. Shane Carlson, the Gauchos’ leading hitter entering the day, sacrificed DeAlba over to second base. Continuing his recent offensive tear, Matt Valaika doubled down the left field line to score DeAlba, the former SBCC star, and give the Gauchos an 8-7 lead. Brian Gump, who had a career-high five hits in the game, lined a single into right field to score Valaika from second, pushing the lead to 9-7. It was Gump’s third RBI and fifth hit of the day.
A pair of runs in the top of the first got things started for the Gauchos. Gump opened the game with a walk followed by a Chris Fox single through the left side, advancing him to third. An Eric Oliver groundout on the ensuing at-bat scored Gump to give UCSB a 1-0 lead. Fox would score two at-bats later on a throwing error from Cougars second baseman Ryan Lormand.
Gump laced an RBI single to left field in the second inning to score Valaika, giving the Gauchos a 3-0 advantage.
Houston countered with two runs of its own in the third. A sacrifice fly from Blake Kelso and an RBI single from Jake Stewart cut the Gauchos’ lead to 3-2.
UCSB would continue to score, plating one in the fifth, two in the sixth and one in the eighth. Consecutive RBI singles in the sixth inning from Gump and Fox gave the Gauchos a three-run lead. Catcher Chris McMurray homered to deep left centerfield to lead off the eighth, extending the Gauchos’ cushion to 7-3.
Houston would not go down quietly, plating four runs in the eighth to tie things up. Matt Murphy started things off with a double, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a balk. RBI singles from Bryan Pounds and Austin Goolsby brought the Cougars to within one. Third baseman Jimmy Cesario doubled home Lormand to tie the game, 7-7.
After the resilient Gauchos struck twice in the ninth to regain the lead, Kyle Brown and Zach Samuels combined to throw a scoreless ninth to secure the comeback win. Samuels faced two Cougars, striking out one, earning his first save of the season, while Brown earned the win, his first of the year.
Gump reached base safely all six times he stepped to the plate, going a career-high 5-for-5 with a walk, two runs scored, three RBIs and two stolen bases. The center fielder pushed his season average to .413 in the process, good for first on the team. His two stolen bases pushed his team-leading total to a perfect 9-for-9.
Fox went 3-for-6 with a run scored and an RBI. Carlson extended his hitting streak to 12 games in a 1-for-4 effort. Valaika continued his surge, going 2-for-5 with two doubles, two runs scored and an RBI.
Click here for Saturday’s box score and play by play.
Chuck Huggins gets the ball in the series finale Sunday.