No. 14 UC Santa Barbara defeated No. 15 Cal State Fullerton 2-1 in Sunday afternoon's rubber match behind an excellent effort by the Gauchos' pitching staff at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
With the series victory, UCSB improved their record to 22-8, 4-5 on the season. The series victory was UCSB's first against Cal State Fullerton since 2007, and their first at home since 1985. Cal State Fullerton's record dropped to 18-13, 3-3. The Titan's received their first series loss since May 2012 vs. UC Riverside.
The Gauchos have played several close games as of late, as their last six games and nine of their last 10 have been decided by two runs or less. Once they get the lead past six innings, UCSB has been unbeatable in that scenario with a record of 16-0 thanks to the numerous shutdown performances by the bullpen.
For most of the game, pitching claimed domination as UCSB's Kenny Chapman matched off with Cal State Fullerton's Phil Bickford. Bickford was picked 10th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of high school, although he chose not to sign with the team and joined the Titans' pitching staff instead.
The game remained scoreless for three innings as both starters were dealing until the fourth inning, when the Gauchos finally broke through. With one out, Tyler Kuresa and Andrew Calica sparked a rally with back to back singles, and Woody Woodward took a hit by pitch to load the bases. Cameron Newell got UCSB their first run of the game with a sacrifice fly just deep enough to score Kuresa to take a 1-0 lead. Billy Frederick followed up by hustling out an RBI infield single to shortstop, beating the throw by half a step and giving the Gauchos a 2-0 advantage.
Cal State Fullerton would immediately score their next time at the plate, earning their only run with a two-out rally capped of by an RBI single from Matt Chapman.
With the lead reduced to 2-1 after five innings, Greg Mahle and Dillon Tate came out of the bullpen to hold the Titans scoreless for the final four innings to clinch the victory for the Gauchos. Tate came in the eighth inning with a runner on second and no outs and struck out the side with nasty sliders to get them out of the jam. He then earned his eighth save of the season by pitching a scoreless ninth, and now has the fourth most single-season saves in UCSB history. He also is now one save away from tying the freshman saves record of nine set last year by Dylan Hecht.
Kenny Chapman pitched five solid innings of one-run ball for UCSB and earned the victory in his first start of the season, improving his record to 1-0. Bickford pitched well, getting through 6.1 innings with two runs allowed, but took the loss and dropped to 3-2 on the season.
Kuresa and Jackson Morrow collected two hits apiece to lead the Gauchos offensively. Fredrick went 1 for 3 with an RBI single and a stolen base.
Matt Chapman led the hitters for Cal State Fullerton, going 2 for 3 with an RBI single, a walk and two stolen bases. Taylor Bryant was the only other Titan with multiple hits with a 2 for 4 performance.
UCSB returns to action right away, hosting BYU Monday afternoon with first pitch at 1:00 p.m.