MORAGA, Calif. - The Saint Mary's baseball team busted out the big bats in the fifth inning to score a pair of runs and held on for the 2-1 win over UC Santa Barbara on Monday afternoon at Louis Guisto Field. With the win, head coach Jedd Soto earned his 200th career victory at Saint Mary's.
In the top of the fifth inning the Gaels and Gauchos were tied 0-0 with both teams managing just one hit. Patrick Wisdom changed that in a hurry crushing an 0-1 challenge fastball over the left center field fence for his fifth home run of the season, and 25th of his career, to put SMC up 1-0.
UC Santa Barbara's (21-18) starter Greg Mahle (1-3) settled down to get Riley Heinzer out on a ground out to second before Donald Collins extended the inning dropping down a gorgeous bunt down the third base line for a single. Collins scored on the next play, as Ricky Boas smashed a triple to deep right center field allowing Collins to score easily.
The two runs would be enough as Saint Mary's (19-19) got a tremendous relief pitching performance from Jordan Mills (4-3) who entered the game for SMC in the top of the third and threw five innings of one run ball. Mills allowed three hits, with four walks and four strike outs throwing 76 pitches for the afternoon.
The Gauchos cut the Gaels lead to one, scoring a run in the top of the eighth inning when an error by Chris Murphy allowed Brandon Trinkwon to reach second to lead off the inning. Mills then walked Joey Wallace to put two runners on with no outs. Soto then turned to the bull pen using three pitchers to get out of the inning. Thomas Cortese took the ball first and promptly got the first out of the inning getting Marc Venning to ground out on a sacrifice bunt, allowing Wallace and Trinkwon to advance 90 feet.
With a lefty coming to the plate, Soto turned the ball over to Ryan Brockett, who struggled to find the strike zone and walked Mahle, who remained in the game as the designated hitter, on four pitches. With the bases loaded and one out, Soto once again went to the pen, this time calling freshman Tanner Kichler who got Ryan Palermo to fly out to right field, scoring Trinkwon from third. Kichler go the Gaels out of the jam getting the next batter, Joe Lent to fly out to right field for the final out.
Kichler came back out for a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his first collegiate save; he went 1.2 innings and did not allow a hit or a run while striking out one.
Defensively, the Gaels looked sharp, Wisdom made several tough defensive plays, but none better than his play to start the top of the fourth inning. Leadoff hitter Brett Vertigan hit a sharp ground ball towards the left side of the infield; Wisdom dove to his left snatching the ball and threw a dart to first for the out. In the fifth inning, Vertigan was once again the victim of a great defensive play. With two outs, he singled to right field, after rounding the base hard, Brenden Kalfus came up throwing to first and Greg Ditmer applied the tag for the 9-3 put out the end the inning.
The Gaels scored two runs on six hits during the day, with Kalfus going 2-for-4, Boas went 1-for-3 with an RBI, and Ditmer went 1-for-2, while Wisdom and Collins had the other hits. The at bat of the day might have been Boas' walk in third. With two outs, the Gaels leadoff hitter battled through a 15 pitch at bat to eventually draw a walk.
Soto becomes just the second head coach in Saint Mary's history to eclipse the 200 win plateau; he joins Miles McAffee (1973-1980) who won 215 games during his tenure in Moraga.
The Gaels will return to action on Friday when they head to Santa Clara to begin a three-game West Coast Conference series starting at 6:00 p.m. at Schott Stadium.