No. 21 Gauchos Win Conference Opener 9-2

Marcos Castanon (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Marcos Castanon (Photo by Tony Mastres)

FULLERTON, Calif.‑ No. 21 UC Santa Barbara earned its fourth straight win and the first of the conference season Friday night as the Gauchos topped Cal State Fullerton on the road 9-2. UCSB outhit CSUF 14-7, posted eight extra-base hits, and stranded eight Titans on base to win its first Big West matchup.

Finally earning his first decision of the season was lefty Zach Torra who improved to 1-0 tossing five innings of one-run baseball. The junior walked just two and allowed six hits while striking out six.

The first two batters of the Gaucho lineup, Cole Cummings and Marcos Castanon, were trouble for the Titans as they reached base safely in their first two plate appearances and would come around to score three runs on those trips.

Four Gauchos notched multi-hit games with Cummings going 3-for-4 with three runs, three RBI, a double, and a walk. Broc Mortensen went 3-for-5 with a pair of runs, doubles, and RBI. Steele Ledford and Jordan Sprinkle both had a pair of hits.

Cummings has reached base safely in every game this season and Castanon is now the owner of a six-game hit streak.

UCSB took the lead in the first inning with Cummings collecting a single on the third pitch of the game before getting pushed over to second on a Castanon walk. Red hot freshman Zach Rodriguez would step in with one out and rip a groundout to second that scored Cummings and gave the Gauchos the lead.

Up 1-0, the bats got going again in the top of the third with UCSB putting up a five-spot on five hits. The first three batters to the plate all ripped hits down the left field line that just snuck into fair play.

Cummings was first with his second single of the game and Castanon followed behind him again firing an RBI double to the left corner. Mortensen was next sticking his bat out and directing the ball just fair, to the same spot of the ballpark, for his own RBI double that extended the lead to 3-0.

Sprinkle was the next to scratch singling through the infield to knock in Mortensen, and Ledford capped off the inning with a 2 RBI double. Once again, a Gaucho would use every bit of the field as Ledford's double ran just between the Titans first baseman and the base itself.

Down 6-0, Cal State Fullerton scored its first run of the game in the fifth inning, finally ending Torra's shutout.

Carter Benbrook was first out of the UCSB bullpen tossing three scoreless innings of work to keep the Gauchos ahead. He struck out the side in the sixth and retired the next six straight batters to face the minimum in his appearance.

Three more runs would come across for UC Santa Barbara in the top of the eighth as the visitors posted an impressive two-out rally. After seeing the first two batters retired, five straight Gauchos reached base with Mortensen and Rodriguez posting three RBI to give their team a 9-1 lead.

The Titans answered in the bottom in the ninth scoring a run to make it 9-2, but Cooper Rons found the final out on a groundout to the mound to give UCSB its fourth straight win.

The Gauchos will look to claim the series in tomorrow's doubleheader with Michael McGreevy and Cory Lewis earning starts.