UCSB reliever Clayton Hall threw a base-laden no-out jam in the ninth inning when the gauchos defeated UC Irvine 6-5 in the first game of a showdown between the top two baseball teams at the Big West in Caesar Uyesaka stadium on Friday.
Keeping his hot bat alive, Jordan Sprinkle became the first gaucho to play a five-hit game since Luke Swenson in 2015. Sprinkle went 5v5 with two runs, a doubles, an RBI, and a stolen base.
Four different gauchos made up the team’s 12 hits. Cole Cummings went 3 for 5 with a home run, a double, three runs and an RBI. Zach Rodriguez and Jason Willow each went 2-3 with an RBI.
Michael McGreevy earned the start for the gauchos, throwing 4.1 innings of work in a rare non-decision for the sophomore year. He only gave up three deservedly and turned down three. In the fifth inning the hot arm of Carter Benbrook (5: 1) kicked, who was brilliant again and hung all zeros with four strokes on the scoreboard to get the win.
The first-placed UCI got the bats going early and placed first with three points. But the gauchos reacted quickly in the lower half when Cummings scored UCSB’s first run with a heads-up baserunning on third base. Rodriguez cut the lead to 3-2 on an RBI single, which Sprinkle scored from second place.
Two more came for the anteaters in the third to extend their lead to 5-2.
UCSB struggled when Christian Kirtley hit a sack to the right to score Sprinkle, and Jason Willow brought Rodriguez home with a single to make it a one-run game 5-4.
Sprinkle struck again in the fourth, this time with the tie run, as the freshman shortstop doubled the left line to get Cummings and make it 5-5.
The game-winning run came just two innings later when Cummings smacked a ball into the deepest part of the park for a solo shot, his fifth of the season.
UCI went quietly through the middle innings, but the Heart of the Order came up in ninth place and loaded the bases on Benbrook with no outs. Enter Hall, a second kid with less than 10 innings in his young gaucho career.
Hall fanned out the first punch he faced. The next eater on the plate hit a dribbler in third place and Cummings fired home for the front runner. Eventually Hall brought home the perfect pitch 2-2 and knocked out the UCI batsman to end the game.