Texas State powers past UC Santa Barbara 7-3 in NCAA tournament opener

The Texas State Bobcats returned to the NCAA baseball tournament for the first time in 11 years Friday night, and they made the most of the opportunity with a 7-3 victory over the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at Palo Alto, Calif.

Playing in the Palo Alto regional, on tree-lined Klein Field at Sunken Diamond, the Bobcats scored four runs in the fourth inning to take the lead for good against the Gauchos. The big blow in the inning was a three-run home run by Peyton Lewis.

Ben McClain hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning for a 6-3 lead. It was Texas State’s 82nd home run of the season, and it sailed high over the trees in right center. Lewis walked with the bases loaded in the seventh to make it 7-3, earning his fourth RBI on the night.

Zeke Wood, Triston Dixon and Austin Smith combined to hold the Gauchos to six hits. Wood, a 6-foot-4, righthander, pitched six innings to earn the victory. He improved to 7-1. Smith worked the final 2 and 2/3 innings to pick up the save.

Saddled with his first loss of the season, UC Santa Barbara starting pitcher Cory Lewis dropped to 9-1. He was roughed up for four runs on four hits in five innings.

With the victory, the Bobcats moved along in the winners bracket of the double-elimination tournament, set to meet the powerful Stanford Cardinal on Saturday — on the Cardinal’s home field.

Stanford, on a 17-game winning streak after a 20-7 victory over Binghamton, N.Y., is the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA tournament and the top seed in the regional. Texas State is the second seed in the regional.

Three-seed UC Santa Barbara will play four seed Binghamton, from Vestal, N.Y., in the losers bracket.

Records

Texas State 46-12
UC Santa Barbara 43-13

Coming up

Saturday — Binghamton vs. UC Santa Barbara (losers bracket), time TBD; Texas State vs. Stanford (winners bracket), 9 p.m.

Notable

One of the plays of the game came in the bottom of the third when Dalton Shuffield, a Texas State senior from San Antonio’s Johnson High School, hit a drive to the outfield wall that was caught on the run by UC Santa Barbara centerfielder Nick Vogt.

In the eighth inning, Shuffield walked and took second on a wild pitch but then was picked off for the second out. Shuffield, the Sun Belt Conference’s player of the year, went one for three in the game.

Because of Austin Smith’s strong performance to finish the game in relief, Tristan Stivors, the national leader in saves with 17, did not pitch for the Bobcats. Stivors, a first-team, All American by Collegiate Baseball magazine, is from San Antonio-area Medina Valley High School.

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