EUGENE, Ore. — Ivan Brethowr’s seventh-inning grand slam broke open a close game and proved to be the deciding play in UCSB’s 6-2 win over No. 20 Oregon Friday afternoon.
The Gauchos, now 3-2, got strong pitching performances from Mike Gutierrez and Alex Schrier, and an early Zander Darby two-run home run kept the Gauchos from ever trailing the Ducks, now 4-1.
Gutierrez went 5.1 innings, allowing six hits but only one run to earn his first win of the season, and Schrier pitched the final three frames to pick up the save.
The weekend series had been scheduled for home at Campus Diamond, but expected bad weather in Santa Barbara prompted the move to Eugene.
Gutierrez kept Oregon off the scoreboard for the first four innings, but not without some trouble. The lefty stranded four baserunners in as many innings, three times keeping a runner stuck on third base.
In the first, a hit, stolen base and throwing error put a Duck on third with only one out, and the home team would have had the lead, if not for Nick Oakley laying out at second base to take away a hit for the second out of the inning. A grounder to third got UCSB out of the inning unscathed.
When the Gauchos provided Gutierrez with some run support, it looked like it had been coming. Four straight Gauchos flew out across the second and third innings, including a couple balls to the warning track, before Jonah Sebring singled to right and stole second.
Darby, who homered twice in one game in Eugene last season, put a ball up into the whipping wind and watched it carry all the way over the right field wall for a 2-0 Gaucho lead.
Broc Mortensen thought he had a two-run homer of his own the next inning, only for Oregon center fielder Colby Shade to bring the ball back from over the fence.
UCSB probably would have liked the extra runs in the fifth, when an RBI single brought the Ducks within a run. The hosts thought they had tied the game with an apparent Owen Diodati homer in the sixth, but the umpires ruled it foul. Diodati singled on the next pitch, and that was it for Gutierrez. Brady Huddlestun walked the only batter he faced in relief, then Carter Benbrook rolled a double-play ball with one pitch to get the Gauchos out of the jam.
If Oregon was thinking about a comeback, UCSB squashed that idea in the top of the seventh. Sebring dropped a bunt single, then a walk and a double steal put Gauchos on second and third with only one out. The Ducks gave Darby a free pass to first, bringing up Brethowr. The slugging sophomore from Kansas crushed his second long ball of the season down the left field line to clear the bases.
Schrier took the mound for the bottom of the seventh and pitched the rest of the game, earning his first save of the season. He gave up one run on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning, and had to work around a pair of walks in the ninth, but kept the game out of Oregon’s reach.
Brethowr’s grand slam was one of two hits for the Arizona State transfer on Friday. Jonah Sebring also had a two-hit game, with a pair of singles. Brethowr and Sebring also both recorded a pair of stolen bases in the game.
Mike Gutierrez’s final pitching line Friday reads 5.1 innings pitched, six hits, one run, six strikeouts and two walks. Alex Schrier’s three innings saw him strike out two while surrendering just one unearned run on one hit and three walks
The Gauchos will look to earn their first-ever series win over Oregon as they wrap up this three-gamer with a Saturday doubleheader, beginning at 11 a.m. Both games will be nine innings, with the second starting 45 minutes after the end of the first.
Matt Ager is set to get the start in game one for UCSB, with Reed Moring scheduled to start game two. A free live stream of both games will be available through pac-12.com, and a radio broadcast will be available through ucsbgauchos.com.