SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Despite taking a one-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, the UConn baseball team dropped its series opener, 5-3, to No. 21 UC Santa Barbara on Friday at Uyesaka Stadium. With the setback, Connecticut drops to 9-7 overall, while UCSB improves to 13-3.
UConn moves to 3-3 on its eight-game West Coast road trip and drops to 0-1 all-time vs. the Gauchos.
Junior ace Anthony Kay (Stony Brook, N.Y.) did not factor in the decision despite allowing just two earned runs in 6.2 innings with four strikeouts. UCSB starter Shane Bieber went 6.0 innings, allowing one run on four hits with four punch-outs.
At the dish, senior OF Jack Sundberg (Mansfield, Conn.) picked up his second-straight multi-hit game, finishing 2-for-4 with an RBI, while junior DH Tyler Gnesda launched his third homerun of the season in the loss
The Gauchos scored the game’s first run in the home half of the first on a sac fly but Kay was able to work out of a jam, inducing an inning-ending 5-4-3 double-play with runners on the corners.
Connecticut knotted the game up at one in the third. Freshman C Zac Susi (Stonington, Conn.) opened the frame with a leadoff double, advanced to third on a sac bunt from junior 2B Aaron Hill (Groton, Conn.), and came around to score the tying run on an RBI groundout from Sundberg.
The score remained 1-1 until the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, the Gauchos worked back-to-back walks before Austin Bush singled up the middle to plate the go-ahead run.
After the Huskies answered with a run in the eight, Gnesda gave UConn its first lead of the game with a towering solo shot to left field with two outs in the top of the ninth.
Austin Hunt was the hero for the Gauchos, launching a three-run walk-off homer with one out against freshman closer Randy Polonia (1-2).
The two squads resume play in the three-game set on Saturday, March 19 at 5 p.m. ET.