UC Santa Barbara Baseball’s Season Ends in Final Pitchers’ Duel

UC Santa Barbara baseball loses to Oregon Ducks in an elimination game on June 2, 2024 (courtesy)
UC Santa Barbara baseball loses to Oregon Ducks in an elimination game on June 2, 2024 (courtesy)

The No. 14 UC Santa Barbara Baseball team saw its magical season come to an end on Sunday night, falling in their fifth and final clash of the year with Oregon, 3-0. Matt Ager delivered a warrior-like start in what was likely a final appearance at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium for the MLB Draft-bound junior. The righty, having pitched twice already on the weekend, hurled 68 pitches over 4 2/3 innings of two-run ball, but was out-dueled by his Duck counterpart. LeTrey McCollum was likewise hailed as a warrior by Head Coach Andrew Checketts; the Gaucho designated hitter made his second start on essentially one leg (after suffering a hamstring injury on Friday) on the day.

McCollum was one of four Gauchos named to the All-Regional Team following Sunday evening’s game, being selected as the top DH of the weekend. Catcher Aaron Parker, shortstop Jonathan Mendez and outfielder Jessada Brown joined him.

FROM HEAD COACH ANDREW CHECKETTS
“The end of the year is always sad,” Checketts said. “Our guys gave a fantastic effort this year, really proud of what they did, what they accomplished, what they overcame. I’ll miss going to practice and working with them and a lot of guys going on to professional baseball after this. We ran out of steam a little bit today but you know, Matt was a warrior out there, threw three days in a row, was running out of gas there at the end and gave us a fantastic start.”

“It was record-setting. I mean, you know to go 26-2 at home and undefeated during the regular season, I think it speaks to the personalities of the kids and the toughness. And that’s why I brought these guys with me for this one. I know they weren’t super pumped about needing to come and do media after that. Um, but you know, these guys were warriors. Like I said, [Ager] took the ball three days in a row and LeTrey, you know, hopping around on one leg and getting hits. And I think that epitomizes this group and the effort that they put in and their resiliency and ability to do well, I think also, to just be grateful.”

HOW IT HAPPENED
It was hardly the ideal start for the Gauchos; a lead-off walk, sacrifice bunt and line-drive single put the Ducks ahead 1-0 in the first. Brown and Mendez combined on a great relay to the plate but the tag was ruled just late in a bang-bang play. Ager got through the rest of the inning clean, then set down the Ducks in order in the second, capping the frame with a heads-up play to pick up a grounder before it could roll foul over the first-base line.

Ager’s dramatic outing continued in the bottom of the third, which he began by plunking the leadoff batter. The next Duck up sent a high fly ball toward the left field wall, but Brown timed his leap perfectly to secure his second home run robbery of the season. A stolen base and an errant pickoff created another jam with a runner on third and just one out, but Ager worked his way out of that spot with a strikeout and a foulout. He came back out for the fourth, and on the shortest of leashes, worked a cool one-two-three inning with a flyout and a pair of lineouts to right. His outing continued into the fifth, where he got the first two outs before a walk, wild pitch and single that just stayed out of Jonathan Mendez’s reach turned into a second Oregon run. Reed Moring took over on the bump and induced a foulout behind third base to end the inning.

For the second time in as many Gaucho-Duck contests this weekend, Santa Barbara’s offense was having no more luck than Oregon’s. Gaucho hitters were able to put bat to ball against Duck starter Kevin Seitter, just not put ball on grass for hits. Ivan Brethowr put a good swing on the first pitch of the game, but it turned into a lineout to right center. In the second, Jonah Sebring hammered a grounder, just right at the Oregon shortstop. Zander Darby took a ball to the opposite field in the third, bringing the crowd to its feet, but that ended as just a flyout. When Santa Barbara finally got their first hit of the game in the fourth, ironically on a soft infield single, that runner was erased in a double play. Darby was in the action again in the sixth, smacking a grounder along the first-base line, but it was just foul. He grounded into an inning-ending double play shortly after.

The Gaucho defense did its part to keep the score low though. Parker came up big behind the plate to help Moring get through the sixth, firing a laser to second to complete a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play and wipe away a lead-off walk. The righty pitcher finished the game with another punchout, which brought the Gaucho supporters to their feet.

The defense wasn’t able to do anything about Oregon’s third run of the game, as the Ducks’ all-time home run leader left the yard for the first time in the regional. Justin Trimble did follow that up with a nice play at first, leaping to snare a line drive. Another hard-hit single ended Moring’s outing, with Frank Camarillo called to make his postseason debut. Parker almost made it two nice defensive plays in the inning, blocking a wild pitch and firing quickly to second to try and stop the runner advancing, but his throw was just a little off-line. Oakley did make it two nice plays, snaring a liner for the third out.

Camarillo worked a scoreless eighth inning, turning it over to the Gaucho offense for Santa Barbara’s last shot. Darby sprayed some rocket shots foul to open the frame but was retired on his second long flyout to left of the night. Brown was called out on strikes. Parker smacked a hit back up the middle to keep Gaucho hopes alive, and Oakley really made things interesting when he punched a single past the Oregon first baseman to set up runners on the corners. Sebring sprayed a couple hard-hit foul balls himself, but struck out to end the game.

FROM THE STUDENT ATHLETES
LeTrey McCollum on playing through his injury: “I’ll do anything for this team,” McCollum said. “I mean, I love the guys, I love, we got the greatest coach in the country there. They’re coaching for us. I would do anything for these guys and for the coaches. I just appreciate them for giving me a shot. I texted coach Checketts last night to tell him I’ll be ready to go today whenever he needed me and he said okay. I’m glad I was able to help contribute tonight.”

Matt Ager on Jessada Brown’s home run robbery: “He’s bailed me out all season with the other robbed homer,” Ager said. “(I) thank him a lot for the defense and I’m just going to miss playing with the guys. I’m going to miss playing with them.”

BY THE NUMBERS

  • The Gauchos end their 2024 campaign with a 44-14 record, their 10th 40-win season since their first Big West Championship campaign in 1983 and their fifth under Andrew Checketts. With a .759 win percentage, it is the second winningest season in program history after their 45-11 campaign in 2019. They also became the first Gaucho squad to finish undefeated at home in the regular season.
  • In 20 innings of work over five career appearances against Oregon, Matt Ager has held Duck hitters to just two earned runs while striking out 21.

UCSantaBarbara

Written by UCSantaBarbara

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4 Comments

  1. An awesome program – I hope UCSB can manage to keep Checketts around. The University’s support of the program could be better. Their facilities aren’t up to par with the quality of their program. Baseball is by far the highest-performing sport at UCSB. Great run Gauchos.

  2. BASIC – I agree, but what about the facilities do you think is lacking? Honestly curious. I for one, would have liked to see a newer scoreboard, maybe with the video screen incorporated. Grass was looking decent, but will need some work in the outfield.

    Overall though, with the (low) amount of local fans that go to the regular season games, I think the stadium is a good one. Would have been nice to have the Foresters back though this summer. Will be interesting to see how that works over at SBHS on Opening Day this Sunday!

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