Playing in a College World Series elimination game, UC Santa Barbara downed No. 3-seeded Miami, 5-3, in front of 15,748 fans at TD Ameritrade Park to earn the first-ever CWS victory for the Gauchos baseball program.
The win lifts the Gauchos to 43-19-1 while the Hurricanes, who were making their 25th CWS appearance all-time, conclude the season with a 50-14 mark. This appearance marks just the second time Miami went 0-2 at the CWS with the last time coming in 1979 when they dropped two straight against west coast teams Pepperdine and Arizona.
“Happy for our guys, our fans and everybody is celebrating like we just won the whole thing,” commented UCSB Head Coach Andrew Checketts. “It’s hard to act like you’ve done it before when you’ve never done it before. First program World Series win, and it sure looked like it.”
Miami didn’t waste any time getting on the board as Zack Collins belted a homer run to right field in the first inning to give the Hurricanes an early 1-0 lead.
UC Santa Barbara answered in the bottom half of the inning, evening the score at 1-1. With one out, Clay Fisher singled to second base and advanced to second after Austin Bush was walked. With two on and two outs, JJ Muno knocked an RBI-single to right field, driving in Fisher to tie the game. Dempsey Grover would strike out to end the inning.
The following inning the Gauchos had a chance to take the lead as they loaded the bases with just one out. Unfortunately on the next at-bat, Fisher grounded into a double play, halting a potential UCSB rally.
After four scoreless innings, Mother Nature took over and forced a one hour and two minute rain delay in the bottom of the sixth after Gaucho Devon Gradford singled to left. The rain delay would end UC Santa Barbara pitcher Noah Davis’ time on the mound after a stellar outing. The freshman right-hander tossed 6.0 innings, allowed just two hits and one earned run.
Play resumed with Gradford on first, no outs with Bush at the plate with a 0-1 count. Bush would pop up for the first out of the inning. Muno notched his second hit of the game with a double down the right field line, which would spark a Gaucho rally and also end the day for Miami starter Danny Glover (5.1IP, 5K, 3ER, 2K).
Frankie Bartow, taking over for Glover on the mound, intentionally walked Dempsey Grover, to load the bases. Ryan Cumberland, who was battling the flu all morning, composed himself just enough to blast a 2-RBI single down the right field line to give UCSB its first lead of the day. The Gauchos, who ended the inning with a 5-3 lead, would score two more insurance runs with back-to-back safety squeeze bunts.
Rain delays usually wreak havoc on teams, but it may have helped the Gauchos as Cumberland mentions.
“I wasn’t feeling particularly well before the rain delay, and I just went back to the locker room and kind of laid down and relaxed and visualized my next at bat and if I had it,” stated Cumberland. “I got ready in the cage and tried to focus on what the team needed rather than how I felt.”
At the top of the seventh inning, Kyle Nelson (3.0 IP, 5H, 2ER, 2K), who had not allowed a run the entire postseason, would take over the mound for the Gauchos and retire the order. The following inning the sophomore southpaw would find himself in some trouble as the Hurricanes connected on four consecutive at-bats that awarded them two runs. Brandon Lopez popped up to record the second out and Nelson struck out Johnny Ruiz to end the scoring drive for the Hurricanes.
Bartow retired the order in the bottom of the eighth as the Gauchos carried a 5-3 lead into the ninth. Fighting for their life, Willie Abreu grounded out to second before Jacob Heyward had a double stolen from him as UCSB third baseman Ryan Clark knocked down his line drive and would strand Heyward at first. Pinch hitter Peter Crocitto grounded into a double play to end the game.
With today’s win, UC Santa Barbara has now knocked off the No. 2 (Louisville) and No. 3 (Miami) seeded teams in the tournament.
The Gauchos will now face the winner of the Arizona-Oklahoma State contest in yet another elimination game on Wednesday, June 22 at 4:00 p.m. (PT) on ESPN.