It didn’t come easy, but the UC Davis baseball team staved off UC Santa Barbara in the ninth inning on Saturday to capture its first Big West Conference win of the season.
The victory completed a three-game series against the Gauchos (19-10, 5-4).
UC Davis (6-23, 1-5) will look to put together its first winning streak of the season on Tuesday when it faces St. Mary’s in Moraga, Calif.
Thursday – UCSB 8, UC Davis 3
The Aggies had little time to celebrate Jared Thompson’s big day at the plate.
The UC Davis designated hitter gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead when he hit a two-out single for the first of his two RBI, but the Gauchos responded with a five-run sixth and cruised to an 8-3 win at Dobbins Stadium.
Third baseman Ty Kelly brought home the other Aggie run, scoring shortstop Michael Andrete with an RBI single in the third.
Friday – UCSB 14, UC Davis 1
The Gauchos got hot early on Friday and stayed hot.
UCSB opened the game with a two-run first and finished with four multi-run innings on 15 hits in a 14-1 victory.
Right-handed pitcher Matthew Lewis came in to finish the game in the ninth. Lewis sat down the side in a 13-pitch, two-strikeout inning to provide a bright spot for the Aggies.
Left fielder Kyle Mihaylo led UC Davis with two hits and supplied the team’s lone RBI of the day.
Saturday – UC Davis 9, UCSB 8
The Aggies entered Saturday’s matinee matchup looking to avoid the sweep against the Gauchos.
After giving up two runs in the top of the sixth to fall behind 6-3, the Aggies got to UCSB starting pitcher Mike Ford.
After allowing a single to Ryan Scoma and walking Kyle Mihaylo, the Gauchos brought in Zach Samuels to bail Ford out.
Samuels proceeded to give up a single to senior Grant Hirneise, scoring Scoma and moving Mihaylo to third.
Tony Bongiovanni then came through as a pinch hitter, smashing a double to the right to score Mihaylo and Hirneise and tie the score at 6-6.
“[Bongiovanni] has been our best guy off the bench all year,” Peters said. “I thought that was a pivotal point in the game when we had a chance to get back in it … so we had to use him in that situation.“
Catcher Scott Kalush brought Bongiovanni home on a double to the gap in left center, giving the Aggies their first taste of a lead in the series since the fifth inning on Thursday.
“I just kept battling in there and eventually I got pitch up and put a good swing on it,” Kalush said.
The Aggies pushed their advantage to 9-6 in the eighth from a pair of RBI singles by Daniel Cepin and Kelly.
That’s when things got interesting.
In the ninth, righthander Scott Lyman made things difficult for himself by loading the bases with no outs.
Lyman then traded walks for strikeouts, striking out two and walking in two runs to make it a one-run game with the bases loaded and two outs.
In a long at-bat, Gaucho slugger Eric Oliver, who already had two RBI on the day, crushed a screamer that headed to the left-center gap. Mihaylo and Cepin converged on the ball right as it was about to reach the grass.
Appearing to near collision, Cepin dove, missing the ball by mere inches, and Mihaylo slid just behind him to come up with the amazing game-saving grab.
“I was coming in, and he was coming more to the side, so we just crossed each other – we weren’t too close,” Cepin said. “[Mihaylo] made a great catch on that, especially with me trying to get in his way.“
Saturday’s game flashed the Aggies‘ potential to succeed on the back of strong hitting and improved young pitching.
“Today we just competed harder,” Kalush said. “Yesterday I felt like we were flat and didn’t come to play. Today we really battled and wanted to get the win.“
JOHN S. HELLER can be reached at email@example.com.