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Late home run by former Dons star Nick Oakley leads UCSB to 17th straight Big West win

Gauchos rally to win at Cal State Northridge

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Make it 17 straight Big West wins for #22 UCSB as they move closer to a league title.

Former Santa Barbara High School star Nick Oakley blasted a ninth-inning, two-run home run to earn a come-from-behind victory over CSUN on Saturday, 4-2. The Gauchos scored three of their four runs in the final two innings to improve to 22-4 in the Big West with four league games left. They lead UC Irvine by 2.5 games when this article was published.

UCSB has won 10 straight games overall and they are 38-12 overall and have the top RPI on the west coast at #12.

Santa Barbara had a chance to get on the board first, as early as the second inning, when they loaded the bases with just one out. A strikeout and a fly out ended that threat, and a third-inning double play snuffed out any chance of a rally after a lead-off single.

Instead, the Matadors were the first to score, manufacturing a run in their half of the third inning. CSUN's first four batters of the inning went single, sacrifice bunt, single, sacrifice bunt to scratch across a run, then they capitalized on a lead-off double in the fourth to tally a second run with an RBI groundout.

The Gauchos got one of those runs back in the top of the fifth after their first three batters all reached safely on a walk and two singles. Jessada Brown plated the run with a sacrifice fly to center, plating that lead-off walk in the shape of Reiss Calvin, but the Gauchos ran themselves into an extra out on the play trying to get their runner from first to second.

After being pipped for runs in back-to-back innings on the mound, Santa Barbara starter Mike Gutierrez worked his way through a scoreless fifth inning to keep the game close, navigating around a walk and hit batter. He got a strikeout to start the sixth but after walking the next batter, Jackson Flora was summoned from the bullpen. The freshman righty walked his first batter but then got out of the inning with a lineout to center and a backwards K. Flora worked around a lead-off single in the seventh, then watched his offense finally tie the game in the top of the eighth.

Brown led off the frame with a single, then took third on Jonah Sebring's one-out bloop double to right. LeTrey McCollum was intentionally walked to put the double play in order, but Jonathan Mendez held his nerve and trusted his eye at the plate to work an eight-pitch RBI walk with the bags full. CSUN summoned their closer and the Gauchos were denied any more runs by a double play.

Flora made quick work of the Matadors in the bottom of the eighth with a pair of punchouts to get his offense back on the field. Calvin started the top of the ninth by getting hit by a pitch, then he was able to scamper all the way to third on a one-out wild pitch that rolled all the way to the backstop. With the go-ahead run 90 feet away, Oakley got a hanging breaking ball and put it in the air to right field. Calvin tagged at third and watched the right fielder move further and further back before the ball cleared the fence for a two-run homer.

Flora got the first two outs of the ninth inning but walked two Matadors in the process, leaving the game with runners on the corners and an out still to get. Matt Ager received that assignment and got it done by inducing a groundout to second for his ninth save in as many opportunities this season.

Jackson Flora's 3 1/3 innings of relief pitching were crucial to Santa Barbara's victory on Saturday; he allowed just one hit while striking out three to work around three walks. He earned his third win of the season in the process.
With his two-run home run, Nick Oakley recorded his 43rd and 44th RBI of the season; those two ribbies were his 18th and 19th in a runner-on-third, less-than-two-out situation. That team-high total has come out of 26 opportunities; only Zander Darby has a better conversion rate (9 RBI on 10 opportunities).
Saturday's game was just the third this season in which the Gauchos entered the ninth inning tied with their opponents. They have won all three.

Santa Barbara will look to sweep its sixth straight conference series in the finale on Sunday at 1 p.m. The game will be live on ESPN+ with live stats and an audio broadcast available through

{UCSB Athletics contributed to this article)

Article Topic Follows: College Sports

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Mike Klan

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