TUCSON, Ariz.— The third-seeded UC Santa Barbara baseball team earned its first NCAA Regional win in five years Friday afternoon as the Gauchos toppled second-seeded Oklahoma State 14-4. Another gem from Co-Pitcher of the Year Rodney Boone coupled with loud bats and run support lifted UCSB into the early winner's bracket.
In his first career postseason start, Boone was himself. The sophomore tossed 7.1 innings and allowed just three earned while striking out 11 and notching at least one K in every inning. The 11 punch-outs officially made him the all-time single season strikeout leader with 128 on the year, and for his career he passed Shane Bieber and is now second all-time with 239.
As good as Boone was defensively, the rest of his teammates got it done for him at the plate as the Gauchos scored in all but three innings, while notching four multi-run innings and outhitting OSU 18-8. The leader of that group was Marcos Castanon who proved his worth as the team's current designated-hitter going 5-fo-6 with five RBI, three runs, a double and a solo home run in just his fifth game back from injury. It is the second five-hit performance by a Gaucho this year. Three other Gauchos in Jordan Sprinkle, Cole Cummings, and McClain O'Connor joined the party as each had three-hit games.
The team's 14 runs are tied for the most in a postseason game.
In the 2016 College World Series the Gauchos were shutout by the Cowboys 1-0, so they made sure to waste no time in getting on the scoreboard in the regional rematch. Cole Cummings collected the first hit of the Tucson Regional, ripping a one-out triple down the right field line. With two out stepped in Marcos Castanon, and in just his fifth game back from injury took a ball over the Cowboy outfielders to score Cummings and give the Gauchos an early 1-0 lead.
An unearned run scored in the bottom half of the inning for OSU to tie it at one apiece.
The Gauchos scored half of its runs in the middle innings, hanging a two in the fourth and fifth, and a three-spot in the sixth.
Two runs came across in the top of the fourth to regain the lead for UC Santa Barbara, as Jason Willow led off with a bunt base-hit and came all the way around to third on a perfect hit-and-run single from McClain O'Connor. With one out and runners on the corners, the nine-hole hitter Gianni Bloom stepped to the plate and on the first pitch he saw laid down a bunt and brought Willow home on a suicide squeeze. Willow was originally called out, but the play was reviewed and overturned.
A double steal put two Gauchos in scoring position and an RBI groundout from Jordan Sprinkle put the Gauchos up 3-1, but once again the Cowboys answered in the bottom half with a solo home run over the right center wall.
The Gauchos got the first two batters aboard again in the top of the fifth with Castanon notching a lead-off single and Mortensen collecting his 19 HBP of the season. A fly out from Willow in the next at bat would prove to be trouble for the Cowboys as they attempted to throw out the tagging runner at third and instead tossed it into the stands, granting both runners two bases and bringing Castanon in to score on the out-of-play error. O'Connor then found his second RBI of the day scoring Mortensen on a sac-fly to extend the lead to 5-2.
In the top of the sixth UCSB once again got the two lead-off batters aboard. This time it was Sprinkle singling into the outfield and then making his way to third on the next at-bat. Another brilliant hit-and-run call coupled with a Cummings single put Gauchos on the corners with no outs.
Zach Rodriguez was next to the plate recording an effective out with a sac-fly to right field to score Sprinkle, and Cummings would travel 270 an at-bat later with Castanon driving him in on an RBI double to left center. O'Connor made it 8-2, shooting an RBI single through the infield to score Castanon.
Oklahoma State notched another run in the bottom of the sixth, but in the top of the eighth Castanon took care of that, launching a towering solo-shot over the left field wall to increase his team's lead 9-3.
The fourth and final run for the Cowboys came in the eighth inning, which drew Boone's exit and cut the lead to 9-4. In came the roaring Carter Benbrook, with one on and one out, and roar he did as he made just one pitch to end the inning. The first toss out of hands was hit weakly back to him allowing him to turn and fire to Sprinkle at second, who relayed to first for the double play.
The final nail in the coffin came in the top of the ninth for the Gauchos as they saw their biggest frame of the night putting a five-spot up to end the game 14-4.
The Gauchos now await the winner of this evening's contest between #1 Arizona and #4 Grand Canyon, which begins at 7 PM PT. UCSB will play in the later time slot tomorrow with first pitch scheduled for 7:06 PM PT.