It was a lights-out night for the UCSB baseball team on the first night it played under the lights at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
The Gauchos roared back from a 6-2 deficit, erupting for eight runs in the fifth inning, and got a stellar four-inning relief performance from James Callahan in beating Cal, 17-7, before a near full house.
“That’s exciting. I got a little bit of goose bump since the game started and I looked over there,” said UCSB coach Andrew Checketts of the large crowd that turned out for Monday night baseball in Santa Barbara. “You know, for a lot of people — a lot of work and a lot of commitment from our donors and our development people and John (Director of Athletics John McCutcheon) — it’s been a lot of work to get to this point.
“It’s rewarding to be able to see that through.”
The historic night brought UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang and his wife, Dilling, to the park for the 5:30 p.m. start. They were joined by several UCSB coaches and former coaches, athletes from other sports at the school, students, several local high school baseball players and coaches, players from Westmont College, Little Leaguers and baseball fans from the community.
They came prepared for the cool evening with jackets, scarves and blankets.
The game didn’t start the way the Gauchos (3-1) would have liked as Cal jumped on a starter Carter Benbrook for six runs and nine hits in 3.2 innings.
“Our guy didn’t throw great early and there were some unfortunate hits there, or some stuff off the end of the bats, some swinging bunts and then they throw the big blow with a double.”
But the Gauchos weren’t going to let Cal spoil this historic night at their yard.
They responded after Nicolas Vogt doubled for UCSB’s first hit under the lights in the third inning. Steele Ledford reached base on a bunt single, Cole Cummings drew a one-out walk to load the bases and Vogt scored when Marcos Castanon’s grounder to shortstop was misplayed for an error. Christian Kirtley followed with a bases-loaded walk to force in Ledford to make it a 3-2 game.
Cal came back with three runs in the fourth.
Checketts was a little concerned how his team would respond after scoring just six runs in its three games over the weekend at Sacramento State.
“We didn’t have a lot of momentum based on how we performed offensively on the last weekend,” he said. “You feel a little bit like, ‘Oh, man, are we going to get seven runs.’ I, obviously, shouldn’t feel that way. The guys in the dugout didn’t feel that way and they did a really nice job.”
UCSB answered with three in the bottom of the fourth. Steele had a run-scoring single, Vogt scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch and Cummings hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Steele to make it 6-5.
The Gauchos then unloaded on the Bears in the fifth. They were aggressive on the base paths, taking an extra base after several hits. Their go-ahead run came on a squeeze play as Kyle Johnson raced home, eluding Cal catcher Ethan Cloyd’s tag attempt, as Vogt executed the bunt.
Ledford, the No. 9 hitter, had big night, going 4-for-5 with a double, four runs scored and two RBI to lead a 15-hit attack.
“He played well today,” Checketts said of the center fielder. “It’s really nice to get some offense out of him. He’s a plus defender, he can run, he’s a left-handed hitter in the lineup, which we’re a little light on, so we’re hoping to get more performances like that out of him.”
Lead-off hitter McClain O’Connor went 3-5 with a pair of RBI and two runs scored, while Castanon, Cummings and Kirtley each had three RBI.
“We know we got good players and good offensive players and it was nice to see them perform at their best,” said Checketts.
Callahan entered the game and was terrific. He didn’t allow a hit, walked one and struck out six in four innings to earn his first win.
“We think he’s got a chance to be a starter for us down the road,” said Checketts.
Jack Delmore, Cal’s third pitcher, suffered the loss. He allowed five runs on three hits in a third of an inning. Cloyd, a freshman out of Dunn School in Los Olivos, started at catcher for the Golden Bears and went 1-4 at the plate.
UCSB plays its second night home game on Friday against Abilene Christian in the opener of a three-game weekend series.
Nick Vogt squeeze bunt scores Kyle Johnson to give UCSB a 7-6 lead over Cal in 5th. Gauchos rally from a 6-2 deficit pic.twitter.com/0tyB4SVRbL
— NoozhawkSports (@NoozhawkSports) February 18, 2020