Santa Barbara, CA – Second baseman Matt Valaika singled down the right-field line to drive in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning as UC Santa Barbara defeated No. 12/14 Cal Poly 6-5 in the opener of a three-game Big West Conference baseball series Friday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Mark Haddow struck out but reached first base on a wild pitch to open the rally. Gunnar Terhune laid down a sacrifice bunt and the throw from Mustang first baseman Wes Dorrell hit Haddow in the helmet and both runners were safe.
Brian Gump’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners up 90 feet and Eric Oliver was intentionally walked to load the bases. With the Mustang infielders and outfielders playing up, Ryan Cavan’s popup was caught by center fielder Ryan Lee on the edge of the outfield grass for the second out of the inning.
Valaika’s single down the right-field line off Mustang senior right-hander Eric Massingham scored Haddow with the winning run.With the loss, Cal Poly fell to 27-10 for the season and 8-5 in Big West games. UC Santa Barbara, which has won four of its last six games against the Mustangs, improved to 23-12 and 6-4.
The Gauchos scored a run in the first inning and three more in the second for an early 4-0 lead and junior right-hander Joe Gardner pitched four scoreless innings before Cal Poly broke through for four runs in the fifth to tie the game at 4-4.
Junior right fielder Adam Buschini’s solo home run to left field, his third of the season, got the Mustangs on the scoreboard and junior left fielder Adam Melker’s two-run single up the middle trimmed the Gauchos’ lead to one run.
A balk by Gardner allowed the tying run to score.
UC Santa Barbara snapped the tie with a run in the bottom of the fifth but Cal Poly tied the game again at 5-5 in the sixth on Buschini’s RBI single to left, setting the stage for the Gauchos’ ninth-inning heroics.
Gardner (6-0), a transfer from Ohlone College, remained unbeaten on the year as he scattered seven hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in the complete-game victory. He threw 139 pitches.
Massingham (5-1) suffered his first loss of the season. Mustang staerter DJ Mauldin allowed five runs and nine hits in eight innings with three walks and a pair of strikeouts, throwing 125 pitches.
Buschini collected two of Cal Poly’s seven hits. The other five hits were singles by five different players.
Lee’s school-record 26-game hitting streak was snapped as was freshman second baseman Matt Jensen’s 23-game streak as both went 0-for-3. Lee also had a walk while Jensen was hit by a pitch.
Oliver paced UC Santa Barbara’s 10-hit attack with three hits, all singles, and Gump added two singles.
The two teams combined for five double plays – three turned by the Gauchos.
Second game of the series will be played Saturday at 1 p.m. with Cal Poly to send Matt Leonard (4-1, 7.03 ERA) to the mound against UC Santa Barbara’s Mario Hollands (4-3, 4.28 ERA) in a matchup of sophomore southpaws.