UC SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The first game of the series between No. 25 UC Santa Barbara and No. 23 UC Irvine was an exciting one as the Gauchos got out of a ninth-inning jam to win the game 6-5. Jordan Sprinkle kept his hot bat alive becoming the first Gaucho to have a five-hit game since Luke Swenson in 2015, and UCSB notched a season-high with five stolen bases.
The Gauchos are now percentage points ahead of the Anteaters for first place in the Big West Conference.
UCSB is 21-8 in league while UC Irvine is 18-7.
Sprinkle was impossible to get out going a perfect 5-for-5 with two runs, a double, an RBI, and a stolen base. Four different Gauchos accounted for the team's 12 hits with each notching a multi-hit effort. 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-for-3 with an RBI of their own.
Michael McGreevy earned the start for the Gauchos tossing 4.1 innings of work in a rare no-decision for the sophomore. He gave up just three earned and struck out three. Entering in the fifth inning was the hot arm of Carter Benbrook (5-1) who was brilliant once again hanging all zeros on the scoreboard with four strikeouts to pick up the win. The final pitcher of the night was Clayton Hall, who was the hero coming in in the ninth and getting the team out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam to earn his first career save.
UCI got the bats going early putting up a three spot in the top of the first, but the Gauchos were quick to respond in the bottom half as Cummings scored UCSB's first run of the night on heads-up baserunning over at third base. Rodriguez cut the lead to 3-2 on an RBI single that scored Sprinkle from second.
Two more came across for the Anteaters in the third to extend the visitor's lead to 5-2, but once again the home team responded. Christian Kirtley got a productive out notching a sac-fly to right that scored Sprinkle, and Willow brought Rodriguez home on an RBI single to make it a one-run game at 5-4.
Sprinkle struck again in the fourth, this time with the tying run, as the freshman shortstop doubled down the left line to score Cummings and make it 5-5. The game-winning run came just two innings later as Cummings crushed a ball to the deepest part of the park for a solo-shot, his fifth of the season.
UCI went quiet through the middle innings but the heart of the order came around in the top of the ninth and loaded the bases on Benbrook with no outs. Enter Hall, a sophomore with less than 10 innings under his belt in his young Gaucho career, but you wouldn't know it by the conviction of his pitching.
Hall fanned the first batter he faced, getting big swings and misses, and firing up the newly welcomed home crowd. The next Eater to the plate hit a dribbler to third and Cummings fired home to get the lead runner. Finally, on a 2-2 count, Hall brought home the perfect pitch getting another swing and miss to end the game and strand three runners.
UCSB will look for the series win in tomorrow's doubleheader.
UCSB Athletics contributed to this article.