San Jose State holds off UC Santa Barbara 5-4

San Jose State University got out to a 5-1 lead after six innings, and held off UC Santa Barbara late, 5-4, in the finale of a non-conference baseball series to win the key three-game set between top West Region foes at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium on Sunday, April 19.

Courtesy San Jose State Athletics

With the victory, San Jose State improves to 26-11. UC Santa Barbara falls to 21-12. The Gauchos had won Friday's series opener, 7-6 in 11 innings, before the Spartans took a 5-2 decision on Saturday.

The Spartans got on the board early with a run in the first. Sophomore centerfielder Jason Martin saw seven pitches before grounding out. Senior leftfielder John Shaffer then worked a full count and lifted a high popup that Gaucho shortstop Shane Carlson lost in the sun, as Shaffer hustled all the way into second with a double. Shaffer moved to third on a wild pitch by UCSB starter Mario Hollands, and sprinted home on an infield groundout by freshman designated hitter Anthony Bona.

After a 1-2-3 first, Spartan right-hander Scott Sobczak gave up back-to-back one-out singles in the second, but the senior got consecutive fielder's choice groundouts to keep UCSB scoreless.

In the bottom of the second, leftfielder Gunnar Terhune chopped a double through the left side with one out. On the very next pitch, centerfielder Brian Gump hit a fly ball deep toward the gap in right center, that Martin had a long way to run to get to, but the San Jose native did, forcing Terhune back to second with two outs. Terhune eventually advanced to third on a failed pickoff attempt by Sobczak, but the Spartan pitcher then got Eric Oliver to hit a slow roller that junior shortstop Kyle Bellows charged hard, corralled perfectly on the hop and fired in time for the third out, keeping Terhune from scoring the tying run.

Shaffer led off the fourth with a double, his second of the game, almost identical to Terhune's, as it chopped over third baseman's head and toward the left field corner. Bona's ground ball to the right side moved Shaffer to third, but after Bellows was hit by a Holland offering, Danny Stienstra's ground ball up the middle came off Hollands and straight to Carlson, who started what proved to be a 1-6-4-3 double play to prevent Shaffer from scoring.

Sobczak's first strikeout of the day was followed by a single through the left side in the fourth, but John DeAlba's lined shot went right into Shaffer's glove, and catcher Marty Mullins flied out to a well-placed Tommy Gale in right field to move into the fifth.

The Spartans put their first two runners on base to open the fifth, when Valine was plunked by Hollands and Aguilera chopped a single through the left side. Hollands then induced a 4-6-3 double play out of Gale, however, and got another groundout to escape that threat.

Bellows made a spectacular play to begin the home half of the fifth, as Carlson rolled a grounder right up the middle. The San Jose native ranged over and dove to grab the ball right behind the second-base bag, and without even getting fully upright, tossed to Stienstra for the out. Sobczak then issued his first walk of the afternoon on four successive balls, and was hurt on the final one, needing to be replaced by fellow senior right-hander Tyler Heil.

With his first pitch, the converted infielder hit Terhune. He then went 3-0 to Gump before inducing a ground ball to second base that Michael Reiling gathered without issue and flipped to Bellows for the second out, but Gump was ruled narrowly safe on the relay at first, keeping the inning alive for Oliver to then poke an RBI single through the left side which plated Gunnar and knotted the score at 1-1. Heil struck out Cavan swinging to conclude the frame.

The sixth opened in promising fashion for San Jose State, as it loaded the bases on successive singles by Martin and Shaffer at the top of the order, and a walk to Bona. Bellows stung a ball to the deepest part of the park which Gump tracked with difficulty for a sacrifice fly to put the Spartans back on top. The inning was far from over, as Stienstra grounded a double down the left field line to score Shaffer from third and Bona all the way from first. Valine's groundout to the right side moved Stienstra to third, with Aguilera following with a clutch RBI double, also into the left field, corner, to score a fourth run in the frame for 5-1 and send Hollands out of the contest.

Heil came back out to pitch the bottom half, and sent his offense straight back to work with an efficient 1-2-3 frame, including going to a three-ball count and rallying to register the out for a second time in as many innings, this time getting DeAlba to lift a routine fly ball to Martin.

UC Santa Barbara produced a two-run rally in the seventh to halve its deficit at 5-3, on consecutive one-out singles by Steve Cook, Terhune and Gump. Aguilera fired to Bellows to get Gump attempting to steal for the second out, before Heil set Oliver down swinging.

The Gauchos pulled yet another run closer in the eighth when Cavan drew a walk from new Spartan pitcher Jack Adams to lead off, moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a Matt Valaika single, and scored on a Mullins sacrifice fly.

The Spartans looked like they had added an insurance run in the ninth when Aguilera was hit by a Mike Ford pitch to start things off, advanced to second on a Gale bunt, to third on a Reiling groundout to the right side, and sprinted home on an awry Ford pitch that got through Mullins and went to the wall behind home plate. Mullins tracked it down and tossed the ball to Ford, seemingly late after Aguilera's left hand slipped in, but he was called out by the umpire.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Trevor Gibson relieved Adams, like himself a senior right-hander, and got Terhune to fly out as the Gauchos led off with the top of their order. Gump then singled through the right side for his second consecutive at-bat. Gibson struck out Oliver on three pitches, the last one swinging, as Gump broke for second and appeared to have the base stolen easily. Oliver was ruled to have interfered with new Spartan catcher Bryson Rahier, however, and was called out to end the game.

Sobczak allowed one run on four hits over 4.1 innings of work. He walked one and struck out one, retiring the Gauchos in order in the first frame. Heil gave up two runs, one earned, on four hits over his 2.2 innings. He struck out a pair in improving to 2-0 on the year. Gibson picked up his second save with the scoreless ninth.

Shaffer was 3-for-4 with the two doubles and two runs, while Aguilera added a pair of hits, one a double, and an RBI. Stienstra was 1-for-3 with his double, run scored and two RBI.

Hollands (4-3), a left-hander who was a Freshman All-America selection a year ago after redshirting in 2007, went 5.2 innings and gave up five runs on eight hits, with one walk and no strikeouts. Fifteen of the 17 outs he recorded were on ground balls, including a stretch of four straight to Carlson at shortstop to end the second, through the 1-2-3 third.

Valaika was 3-for-4, with Terhune and Gump adding two hits apiece. Gump drove in two runs.

The Spartans round out a five-game non-conference road stretch at the University of San Francisco this Tuesday, April 21. First pitch at Benedetti Diamond is set for 3:00 p.m.

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