What was supposed to be a pitcher's duel on Friday night at Baggett Stadium between two of the top pitchers on the west coast turned into anything but, as thirteenth-ranked UC Santa Barbara came out on top of an 8-6 slugfest against fifth-ranked Cal Poly by tagging Mustangs ace Matt Imhof for seven runs in his shortest outing this season.
Imhof, who entered the game with a 5-1 record, a 1.05 ERA, and the most strikeouts of any pitcher in the nation, registered statistical worsts across the board against the Gauchos offense. His seven runs allowed, 3.1 innings pitched, and four strikeouts were all season-worsts. It was just the second time this season he allowed more than one earned run.
The victory started the series on a good foot for UCSB and improved the team's record to 20-5, 2-2. The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for Cal Poly (24-5, 3-1).
Showing the bullpen's strong ability to shut down a game with a lead, the Gauchos moved to 15-0 on the year when leading after six innings. Junior lefty Greg Mahle earned his team-best fifth win of the season with three shutout innings in relief of starter Austin Pettibone.
Sophomore closer Dillon Tate earned his third multi-inning save of the season and seventh overall by allowing just one hit over the eighth and ninth innings.
The hard-throwing righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth by inducing a Jimmy Allen popout before striking out Chris Mathias to end the danger. He fanned Chris Hoo, who had damaged the Gauchos to the tune of a team-high four RBIs earlier in the game, to end the contest as part of a 1-2-3 ninth.
The Gaucho bats did most of their damage with a four-run third followed by a three-run fourth.
Erasing a 2-0 deficit after the Mustangs pushed across a pair of runs in the second inning, sophomore designated hitter Robby Nesovic swatted a three-run home run off Imhof in the third, scoring senior left fielder Joey Epperson and junior third baseman Peter Maris. Junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa took advantage of a frustrated Imhof in the very next at-bat, lining his eighth home run of the season for UCSB's first set of back-to-back roundtrippers since the 2009 season.
Nesovic had his best offensive game of the year hitting in the three-hole, matching a season-high with three hits. The big fly was his first of the season and fifth of his career.
Epperson lined a two-run double and came around to score on a wild pitch in the next inning as part of a 2-5 day.
UCSB's Pettibone struggled in his first Friday start of the year, allowing six runs over 4.1 innings.
The Gauchos and Mustangs resume their series tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. with sophomore LHP Justin Jacome (4-1, 2.41 ERA) slated to start opposite Cal Poly's Justin Calomeni (5-1, 3.19 ERA).