Austin Bush doubled three times and drove in five, Ben Brecht thrived in his second career start on the mound, and Tevin Mitchell did his best Adrian Beltre impression at third base to help lead UC Santa Barbara to a 10-3 midweek win over Pepperdine, giving the team a three-game winning streak heading into Big West play.
Bush was one of three Gaucho (10-12) batters to record a three-hit day, joined by freshman center fielder Tommy Jew and junior second baseman Colton Burns. All three played key roles in UCSB’s pair of four-run innings, with the Gauchos jumping ahead with a big first before putting the game on ice with another quartet of runs in the fifth.
The steady flow of offense led to the first career win for UCSB starter Ben Brecht. A highly-tauted freshman, Brecht was solid but not spectacular last week against Stony Brook in his first collegiate start. The Wilmette, Ill. native made a big jump on Tuesday, scattering five hits and allowing no earned runs over seven complete innings.
The 6-7 southpaw settled down quickly after a shaky start to the game – including a leadoff walk and two UCSB errors – escaping the first inning with just a single unearned run against, and then holding the Waves (11-12) off the board the rest of his time on the hill.
Despite three walks, he was mostly over the plate on the afternoon, throwing 57 of his career-high 84 pitches for strikes.
Though the score was 8-1 when Brecht left the game, it could have been much closer were it not for the slick fielding of Mitchell at the hot corner.
The Clovis, Calif. native made a trio of web gem-worthy plays, saving at least a run and possibly a few more by himself. His two biggest plays looked almost identical, as he made headlong dives to his right on sharply-struck grounders before getting to his feet and throwing out the runner to end both the second and fourth innings. The former play was extremely vital, as Pepperdine had two runners on and would have scored at least one run on the play.
Mitchell also started a 5-4-3 double play to end the first inning, helping Brecht escape what could have been a big inning.
“Ben did a nice job today,” said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. “He walked the leadoff guy to start the game, but then he turned around and did a nice job picking us up.”
“Tevin picked us up on the defensive side of things, but credit to Ben – a lot of freshmen would have got rattled by that first inning, but he kept throwing it in there.”
Though the Waves were able to bring in a run in the top of the first on that double play ball, their lead was short-lived as the Gauchos responded with yet another productive first inning.
Bush opened the scoring for UCSB by yanking a changeup down the right-field line for a two-run double, punishing Pepperdine starter Chandler Blanchard for putting two of the first three batters on with a walk and a hit by pitch. Two batters later, Jew crushed a Chandler offering into the left-center gap for an RBI triple, and he even came in to score himself after Waves center fielder Matt Gelalich dropped the ball trying to pick it up on the warning track.
Burns, normally a world-class tablesetter, decided to enjoy the main course for himself to start off the fifth, launching a solo homer off Blanchard to make it 5-1. Bush then chased Blanchard from the game with another run-scoring double, this time into the right-center gap.
Unfortunately for Pepperdine, new pitcher Benjamin Slattery wasn’t fooling anyone, with the first three batters he faced lining singles to bring in another two runs for the Gauchos.
Bush later capped the scoring for UCSB with a two-bagger to left center in the eighth to plate Mitchell and pinch-runner Kenny Corey.
Riding a three-game win streak, the Gauchos will open Big West Conference play this weekend by hosting Long Beach State for a three-game series, starting at 3:00 p.m on Friday.