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Home sweet home for UCSB Baseball as they light up scoreboard in first game this year at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium

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UCSB clobbers UConn in long-awaited home game.

UC SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - There were plenty of firsts for the No. 25 UC Santa Barbara Baseball team in Friday night's game, their first at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium after 11 straight away from home while the Gauchos' home park received a new playing surface. Jonathan Mendez marked the occasion with his first collegiate home run, and Aaron Parker left the yard in his first game back from injury. That offensive outburst plus another strong day from Matt Ager on the mound powered the Gauchos to a 13-3 victory over the UConn Huskies to open their three-game series.

"Today was a really exciting day for everyone," Checketts said. "The surface turned out fantastic and we are grateful for all the hard work that was put into it by our administration to get us a first-class playing surface. It was great to have our guys play so well in their home opener in front of a great crowd."

Facing BIG EAST opposition for the second time this week, the Gauchos simply repeated the process that had carried them to victory on Tuesday: score early and score often. Santa Barbara loaded the bases in their first inning at bat, and Nick Oakley's RBI groundout, his team-leading 12th run batted in of the season, broke the scoreless tie. In the second, Justin Trimble and Mendez led off the inning with back-to-back doubles to double the home team's advantage.

On the mound, Santa Barbara's ace Ager looked to have shaken off his early season struggles for good, delivering six strong innings. He had to work around traffic in the first, leaving the bases loaded after a two-out double, but as his offense put runs on the board, he settled into his rhythm. He stranded Huskies on all three bases in the second as well, then stranded two in the third before setting the side down in order in the top of the fourth.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Gauchos produced an offensive explosion to blow the game wide open. Trimble led off with his second double of the game, then stole his first base of the season, taking third. Not that it mattered, as Mendez just drove his first home run out of Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, over the left-center field fence. After two outs, the Santa Barbara offense rallied for three more innings, starting with Jessada Brown legging out an infield single. Brendan Durfee worked a walk, then Parker crushed a long ball to straightaway centerfield in just his second plate appearance since Feb. 16.

After Ager set UConn down in order in both the fifth and sixth, Santa Barbara put even more runs on the board, capitalizing on Husky mistakes in the bottom of the sixth. Brown was first to bat, and he reached on a throwing error. Durfee's single moved Brown to third, and Parker's sacrifice fly drove him home.

The Huskies got on the board with two runs off Ager in the top of the seventh, but the combination of Hayden Hattenbach and Cole Tryba put an end to the UConn rally and the inning. The Gaucho offense got those two runs back and then some in the bottom of the inning too, with a bases-loaded walk giving Parker his fifth RBI of the game and McCollum re-establishing the 10-run advantage with an RBI single. Trimble's bases-loaded walk scored the 13th and final Gaucho run of the game.

UConn got their final run in the top of the ninth with a solo home run to right field off of Frank Camarillo, the only blemish on the righty's otherwise strong two-inning outing.

Justin Trimble's two-RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning made it consecutive games in which UC Santa Barbara has held a 10-0 lead this week. Reiss Calvin's monster home run in Tuesday's win over Villanova got the Gauchos to the 10-0 mark in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Elsewhere on the list of firsts Friday night was a pair of positional debuts; Nick Putnam earned his first career start, playing eight of nine innings at first base before moving behind the plate for the ninth. Hudson Barrett also recorded his first at-bat on Friday, subbing in for Parker at designated hitter, a position the Gauchos have considered using the sophomore in while an arm injury keeps him off the mound.
Aside from the homer he surrendered, Frank Camarillo's stuff looked good in his two-inning relief outing; the righty set a new career high with three strikeouts in his game-finishing outing.
A remarkable though unfortunate stat for the Gauchos is that they have had immaculate innings thrown against them in back-to-back games now. Villanova pitched up a nine-pitch, three-strikeout frame in the eighth on Tuesday, and UConn did the same in the third inning of Friday's game.

The Gauchos and Huskies will play the second game of this three-game series on Saturday, March 9, with first pitch at 3:05 p.m. from Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The game will also be live on ESPN+ with an audio broadcast and live stats available on

(Article courtesy of UCSB Athletics)

Article Topic Follows: College Sports

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Mike Klan

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