Southern Utah (5-7) jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the second inning of the first game. Jacob Romney’s two-RBI single put the Thunderbirds in front. Garrett Messerly scored on a fielder’s choice for the third run of the inning before Gauchos starter Michael Martin induced Thunderbirds shortstop Colby Ford to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to get out of the jam.
Martin would last five innings, allowing five runs on six hits, striking out four and walking three.
After the Thunderbirds rang up another run in the top of the third, the Gauchos (10-6) stormed back to tie the game by scoring four times in the bottom half. The Gauchos rally started with two outs as Patrick Rose singled to third base. Junior Brian Gump followed with a bunt single of his own, as Chris Fox’s RBI single combined with a fielding error to score both Rose and Gump, putting the Gauchos on the board, 4-2. With runners on second and third, Shane Carlson scorched a single to right field, scoring Eric Oliver and Mike Zuanich to tie the game, 4-4. Carlson’s two-RBI single extended the second baseman’s hitting streak to 16 games.
Four-straight Gauchos hits in the bottom of the fourth were good for two runs and a 6-4 lead. John DeAlba, a former SBCC star, doubled to right to start things off. Chris McMurray followed with a bunt single. Rose drove in DeAlba with an RBI single to right field, while an RBI double from Gump scored McMurray.
Both teams scratched a run on the board in the fifth frame to put the score at 7-5. Southern Utah starter Jacob Noyes departed the game with the bases loaded, giving way to reliever Kyle Melling. The Gauchos threatened to break the game open, but Fox grounded out to end the threat.
Noyes pitched 4.2 innings, allowing seven runs on nine hits, striking out one and walking four.
Southern Utah tied the game in the eighth, scoring two runs on two hits. Joe Wright led off the inning with a solo home run to deep right field to cut the Gauchos lead to 7-6. Pinch hitter Mac Nelson singled home Cameron Nelson to knot the game at 7-7.
The pesky UCSB offense quickly regained the lead in the bottom of the eighth. As they had done for much of the game, the one-two punch of Gump and Fox got the rally started. Gump singled up the middle and stole his team-leading 10th base to put himself on second with no outs. Fox doubled in the next at-bat, putting runners at second and third. Oliver followed and laced a 1-0 pitch up the middle to score Gump and Fox, giving the Gauchos the 9-7 lead. Oliver would score the final run of the inning courtesy of a fielding error from Thunderbirds second baseman Matt Sanford.
Gump was 3-for-4 with a walk, a stolen base, two runs scored and one RBI. Fox was 2-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI, while Oliver was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Combined, the Gauchos’ one, two and three hitters were 7-for-13 with six runs scored and four RBIs.
In game two, the Gauchos used a solid effort from redshirt freshman Mario Hollands (2-1) combined with timely hitting to take the game, 10-7 in seven innings.
Hollands baffled Thunderbirds hitters, striking out seven in six innings of work, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits en route to his second win.
UCSB pounced on the Thunderbirds in the bottom of the first as Gump and Fox ignited yet another Gauchos rally. Gump singled through the right side and stole second base, his 11th of the season. Fox advanced Gump to third on a groundout to the right side. Zuanich followed with his fourth sacrifice fly of the season, scoring Gump for the first Gauchos run of the game. Wth his 16-game hitting streak on the line, Carlson extended it in style, belting a two-run homer high over the left field wall to put the Gauchos in front, 3-0.
Four consecutive singles and a DeAlba sacrifice fly scored three more Gauchos runs in the bottom of the third, extending the lead to 6-0.
Two Southern Utah runs in the fourth and one in the fifth, cut the Gauchos’ lead to 6-3. The Thunderbirds made things even more interesting in the top of the seventh. Nelson’s lead-off single ended Hollands’ complete-game effort as the Gauchos went to the bullpen to close out the game. Edwards entered the game and immediately surrendered a single to Thunderbirds second baseman Keli’i Zablan. Wright followed with another single to right field, scoring pinch runner Ben Gollaher to cut the Gauchos’ lead to 6-4. Edwards induced Bucky Aona to ground into a 5-4-3 double play, as Zablan advanced to third base with two outs. Wilson’s shot through the right side scored Zablan to put the Thunderbirds within one, 6-5. Edwards wouldn’t cave in, however, and he struck out Nick Freitas to slam the door.
Edwards earned his third save on the year, and his second of the day.
Southern Utah starter Kyle Hamman took the loss, pitching all six innings, allowing six runs on eight hits, striking out none and walking two.
Gump and Fox paced the Gauchos attack with 2-for-4 and 2-for-3 efforts, respectively. The lefty duo scored three runs as Gump swiped his 11th base of the season, extending his perfect steal ratio to 11-for-11. Zuanich and Carlson added two RBIs each in 1-for-2 efforts, as Carlson extended his hitting streak to 17 games.
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Southern Utah and UCSB will play the series finale at 1 p.m. Sunday. Senior Chuck Huggins will be on the mound for the Gauchos.