UCSB took care of business against rival Cal Poly Friday with a 7-0 shutout at home, with hometown hero Nick Oakley driving in four of those runs.
With the win, the Gauchos move into a tie for first place after Cal State Fullerton’s loss to Long Beach State. UCSB and Fullerton are both now 17-8 in conference play. The Gauchos are 34-16 overall.
Matt Ager earned the win for UCSB, pitching seven scoreless innings and striking out eight.
Oakley put together a performance of the year, hitting a solo home run and a bases-clearing double while taking on his childhood and high school teammate Bryce Warrecker, who started the game for the Mustangs.
Ivan Brethowr got the game rolling for the Gauchos, taking Warrecker deep into left-center for the 1-0 lead.
“When he sticks with his plan and he makes contact, it’s scary,” said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. “Slow start after coming back from the injury, took him a little while but it seems like he’s settling in.”
Oakley continued the home run trend in the 5th inning, when he pulled a ball against his former high school teammate into right field.
“One of my best friends growing up, and I grew up catching Bryce until junior year of high school,” said Oakley. “He did a great today but I got a good swing off.”
“The same pitch that he got me out on the at-bat before, and I talked to Ferg and he saw some things in my swing,” Oakley continued. “I knew they were going to go back to that pitch because they got me out on it.”
Starting pitcher Matt Ager did his job on the mound, going 7 scoreless frames, striking out 8 hitters.
Ager gave up five hits in his seven innings and walked two.
“He threw more pitches there then probably would have liked, but pitch 123 of the night was at 95 (mph), so pretty good heater and saved some in the tank for the end there,” Checketts said.
“I normally have a slider I’ll throw half the time, but I thought it wasn’t there today, so I just was trying to look fastball and I just kind of got in a groove,” Ager said.
Brethowr delivered again in the 8th inning, scoring Sundstrom with an RBI double to left. LeTrey McCollum picked up where Brethowr left off, scoring him from second with an RBI single up the middle.
The 8th inning scoring continued as Oakley produced the game-breaking hit, clearing the bases with a double ripped down the right field line.
“Staying prepared, working on what I need to every day and just waiting for my opportunity, helping the team win anyway,” Oakley said.
The Gauchos pen came in and did their thing, holding the Mustangs scoreless in their two innings of work. With one of the top relievers in the country, Hudson Barrett and red-hot Sam Whiting shutting the door.
“Yeah, I wish we got one ending earlier. We wouldn’t have had to use Barrett at all, but it was to get Barrett out and Sam to come in and have a real clean one there,” Checketts said. “He has been throwing the ball well the last couple of weeks.”
The Gauchos will continue the series with Mike Gutierrez on the bump, looking to take the second game.
“We’re in the mix for a postseason at-large bid. We’re just trying to take it day-to-day and one game at a time,” Checketts said.
The Gauchos have two more against the Mustangs in this home series. They play on Saturday starting at 4:05 p.m. and Sunday at 1:05 p.m.