SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Freshman Drew Williams delivered a go-ahead pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning against Cal State Fullerton closer Brett Conine to land the final blow in a see-saw 6-5 win for UC Santa Barbara on a foggy Friday afternoon at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
The Gauchos (10-12-1, 1-1 Big West) held leads of 3-0 and 5-2 in the game but saw those advantages evaporate as Cal State Fullerton (10-14, 1-1) rallied for three runs late, including a two-spot in the eighth that made it 5-5.
However, Williams came through with the biggest hit of his young career, against one of the top closers in the country no less, to re-establish the lead for UCSB. His seeing-eye base hit back through the middle brought across junior right fielder Michael McAdoo, who put the Gauchos in business by ripping a one-out double into the left-center field gap.
That one run proved to be enough for UCSB sophomore right-hander Shea Barry, who bounced back from a shaky eighth inning by rolling up three consecutive routine ground balls in the top of the ninth to seal the win.
"Regardless of the score, we needed to come back and play good quality baseball today after the series opener, and we did that," said UCSB assistant coach Eddie Cornejo. "Drew has had minimal opportunities so far as a freshman, but he's put together good, competitive at-bats and we felt like he had a good chance against Conine there."
The Gauchos put pressure on early, with Andrew Martinez leading off the bottom off the first with his team-leading fourth home run of the season and then Armani Smith shooting a two-run double into right-center to stretch UCSB's lead to 3-0 in the second.
That lead looked like it would be enough for sophomore right-hander Chris Lincoln, who was solid for the third time in as many starts since moving to the rotation. The Moreno Valley, Calif. native faltered only in the third, giving up a pair of runs on a single from Jake Pavletich. But otherwise he kept the Titans at bay, deftly pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the second and keeping the visitors from mounting any serious threats besides that.
UCSB added to its lead on an RBI triple from Clay Fisher in the fifth, one of UCSB's six extra-base hits in the game, and a run-scoring base hit from Tommy Jew in the seventh. Both of those runs came at the expense of CSF reliever Blake Workman, who threw 73 pitches - just five fewer than starter Tommy Wilson - and ultimately wound up with the loss after giving up McAdoo's double in the ninth and making way for Conine.
Martinez (2-3), who had to leave the game in the seventh inning after getting hit on the right hand with a Workman fastball, and Eric Yang (3-4) both had multi-hit days for the Gauchos. Pavletich did the heavy lifting offensively for the Titans, going 3-5 with a pair of RBIs.
UCSB and CSF conclude their series on Saturday afternoon with a 2:00 p.m. rubber match. Senior righty Stevie Ledesma (0.81 ERA as a starter) draws the start for UCSB and will look to continue his hot streak, and will be opposed by Titans right-hander Andrew Quezada (0-2. 4.67 ERA).