SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Senior left fielder Cameron Newell finished a triple short of the cycle and sophomore starting pitcher Shane Bieber allowed just one earned run over eight strong innings as the Gauchos easily claimed a 10-3 win over Kentucky in Friday's series-opener at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Despite facing a projected first rounder in Kentucky's Kyle Cody, the Gauchos (5-0) slugged their way to season-highs in runs and extra-base hits (five). UCSB is now on the program's longest winning streak to open a season since 1991. The Gauchos have also had their starting pitcher allow one earned run or less in all five games this year, the longest such streak in the Checketts era.
Newell had arguably his best-ever offensive day as a Gaucho, going 3-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored. Luke Swenson (2-4, two RBIs) and Campbell Wear (1-2, three RBIs) also had banner days at the plate.
After Bieber retired the side on four pitches to open the contest, Newell got the party started in the bottom half of the first by driving a Cody fastball over the right field fence, the first home run both for the Gauchos this season and for Newell in his Division I career.
That big fly precipitated a steady stream of offense for UCSB, who scored in three of the next four innings. Wear contributed a sac fly in the second before junior DH Robby Nesovic did the same in the third, setting up Dalton Kelly to follow that up by knocking in Woody Woodward with an infield single. Wear then broke the game open with a two-run double into the gap, bringing the score to 7-1.
That three-inning frenzy spelled the end of the day for Cody, who finished with six hits and seven earned runs against in his trio of innings. The 6-7 right-hander was handed the loss for his first decision of the season.
His counterpart, Bieber, followed up a career-best start against BYU with another solid outing against the Wildcats. The righty kept his fastball down all afternoon while working in a slider that gave many of the UK hitters fits. He pitched eight full innings – matching a career-long – for the second consecutive weekend while allowing one earned run (two total), nine hits, one walk, and five strikeouts. He earned his second win in as many decisions.
After that dominant first, Bieber had to manage the game a bit more, as UK got the leadoff runner on in each inning two through six.
The most danger Bieber faced was in the second, when a pair of singles put runners on the corners with one out. With the heart of the order coming up, Bieber promptly snuffed out the rally, getting No. 2 hitter Storm Wilson to offer at a back foot slider before going back to the same pitch to retire Thomas Bernal to end the inning with another punchout.
Bieber also performed impressive escape acts in the seventh – forcing leadoff man Kyle Barrett into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play with two on – and eighth, when he struck out Ka'ai Tom on a check swing at a fastball off the plate to negate a one-out, runner in scoring position situation.
After Kentucky dipped into the bullpen, UCSB found it had the appetite for one more rally, as Nesovic and Swenson provided run scoring hits – the latter a double into the left-center gap – before leadoff hitter Andrew Calica closed the scoring with an RBI walk.
The Gauchos go for the series win tomorrow afternoon behind their own projected first-rounder, junior right-handed starter Dillon Tate. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.