Playing in front of 20,956 fans in their first-ever College World Series, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos found themselves in a heated pitchers' duel with Oklahoma State. Unfortunately it was one the Gauchos would end up losing, 1-0, sending them into the losers bracket.
Falling to 42-20-1, the Gauchos will play the winner of tonight’s Arizona-Miami matchup Monday, June 20 at 11:00 a.m. on ESPNU in an elimination contest.
Postseason jitters didn’t seem to effect the pitchers out of the gate as they both allowed just one base runner in the first inning. But that changed in the second inning, which, looking back, would end up being the Gauchos’ best opportunity to put a run on the board.
After a strikeout by Austin Bush, they registered back-to-back hits to place runners on the corners with one out. JJ Muno doubled to left center and advanced to third off a single by Dempsey Grover. On the next at bat, Kyle Plantier belted a line drive that was nabbed by Cowboy shortstop Donnie Walton. A strikeout by Josh Adams would end the inning.
Following the second inning, the Gauchos struggled to get any offense going as Cowboy pitcher Thomas Hatch settled in and allowed just two base runners over the next five innings.
“It looked like he might have had some, you know, early energy, jitters, whatever you want to call it,” mentioned UCSB Head Coach Andrew Checketts. “He was up and elevated a little bit. Then after that he was down, his fastball was down and breaking ball was coming out of his hand better. I thought early it was coming out a little bit, a little flatter and late. It was coming out looking like fastball and had some depth to it. And we had more trouble laying off of it in the dirt. And then he was getting ahead in the count.”
While the Gauchos would struggle to find some offensive prowess, the Cowboys had some clutch hitting in the fourth inning to score the lone run of the game. Corey Hassel and Donnie Walton kicked off the inning with a pair of singles before Garret Benge’s single to center field would drive in Hassel. Oklahoma State’s rally was cut short as Conor Costello lined into double play to shortstop Clay Fisher, who caught Benge on the base path for the second out. A fly out by Dustin Williams would halt the Cowboys.
“I think it was just the fourth inning where I lost my sharpness,” commented Bieber. “I compounded multiple mistakes in a row and they took advantage of it, hit the ball hard, and that was the game.”
It started to look like late-inning heroics were going to shine once again for the Gauchos in this historic postseason run. In the eighth inning, following a strikeout by Sam Cohen, Billy Fredrick, pinching hitting for Josh Adams, singled to right field. The rally was unfortunately cut short as Ryan Clark hit into a double play.
Hatch (9-2) tossed his fourth complete game of the season and allowed five hits while striking out seven.
Gaucho Shane Bieber posted just as impressive numbers, in 8.0 innings tossed he allowed just one run and struck out six.
“I thought that was a combination of Hatch settling in and being sharper along with maybe the situation and score of the game,” stated Checketts. “But I thought our guys were competitive and they battled, and it was a good pitchers' duel if you’re into pitchers' duels. Those guys were special. There’s a reason why both these teams are here and those two guys are a big part of both teams being here. You take those guys out of the equation for either team and we’re not sitting here.”