UCI (13-18, 2-3) trailed 7-2 entering the seventh inning after UCSB (14-18, 3-5) put up five runs the half inning before spotting the bullpen a five-run lead as they looked to hold the win for starter Kyle Nelson.
Pinch-hitter Dailin Lee walked, and Ryan Johnston, making his first career start, reaching on his second single of the day. A pair of outs brought up Keston Hiura who came through singling home Lee, and Parker Coss followed with a two-out RBI single of his own to chip away at the Gaucho lead, 7-4.
UCSB looked to answer as Kenny Corey reached on the Anteaters' third error of the day, but Michael Martin, who slowed the Gaucho attack, picked Corey off to keep the deficit at three.
UCI got back to it in the eighth putting a pair of runners on with one out again for Johnston. He ripped a grounder in the hole that Gaucho SS JJ Muno booted to allow another run to score and put runners on the corners. A pitching change and a sterling defensive play in CF left the 'Eaters with two outs, but Mikey Duarte laced a pitch into RF to cut the deficit to 7-6. Freshman closer Chris Lincoln battled with Hiura who finally worked a walk after falling behind 0-2, and the Gauchos would escape as Parker Coss' liner was snared by a leaping Muno to slice into the 'Eaters' rally and keep it a one-run game.
Andre Pallante kept the momentum rolling with a perfect eighth to bring the game to the ninth inning. Matt Reitano led off with a spirited at-bat in which he worked the count full, fouled off multiple pitches, and was even brought back to the dish after he leaned into a pitch to draw a hit by pitch. Reitano would get hit and head to first base anyways, but in doing so caught the pitch under his armpit and tossed it back towards the mound and out to shortstop to set the tone for the inning.
Cole Kreuter singled leading to a bunt situation that Adrian Damla executed, but catcher Dempsey Grover pounced on it to make the out at second base leaving runners on the corners with one out. After another pitching change, Dailin Lee stepped back in and shot a hard grounder to SS. Muno looked to start the double play, but threw the ball into right field to bring home the tying run and put runners back on the corners. Pinch-hitter Devin Pettengill slashed a fly ball deep enough to left field to bring Damla home and give the Anteaters the 8-7 lead coming all the way back and overtaking its largest deficit of the season.
Calvin Faucher entered for the ninth looking to right his own pitching troubles and earn the save. A leadoff single would come all the way around to third base before Faucher struck out cleanup hitter Armani Smith for the final out and put a bow on the 8-7 Anteater victory.
The win is just the second in the team's last 15 games, and also snaps a seven-game losing streak dating back to April 1st. The five-run deficit is the largest lead overcome for the 'Eaters since February of 2016 when UCI trailed by five in the eighth inning against Nevada before they tied it with two outs in the ninth and eventually won in the 10th by the same score of 8-7.
Keston Hiura posted the best numbers of the 'Eaters going 2-for-3 with a two-run triple and three RBIs on the day, but the entire roster contributed toward the win which included two runs scored each by subs Adrian Damla and Dailin Lee. For Lee, he also earned his first career RBI. Ryan Johnston earned more firsts in addition to making his first start by scoring the first run of his career. He and Mikey Duarte enjoyed multi-hit days while Duarte also had an RBI along with Parker Coss and Devin Pettengill.
UCSB's offense was surrounded around the sixth inning as Kenny Corey led the team with two RBI. The Gauchos got hits from eight of their nine starters, and six starters scored a run including Armani Smith who scored twice and doubled in the game.
Both starters did not factor in the decision despite a quality outing from Kyle Nelson who allowed three hits and walks along with just one earned run and five strikeouts over six innings. Louis Raymond was touched up for nine hits, but did not walk a batter. He allowed all seven UCSB runs with only five being earned.
The Anteater bullpen was the unsung hero as Michael Martin, Andre Pallante, and Calvin Faucher came together for three innings of one-hit, no-walk ball to give Pallante his third win of the year and Faucher his ninth save and first since mid-March.
The win puts a whole new spin on the weekend as the series draws even heading into Saturday's finale. A pair of Chrises head to the mound as Chris Vargas and Chris Clements duel at 1:00 p.m. for a series win.