(photo by Craig Jackson)
OMAHA, Neb. – Shane Bieber had the kind of stat line Saturday that carries teams to the winners’ bracket: Eight innings, six hits, one earned run, no walks and six strikeouts on 98 pitches.
But UC Santa Barbara’s ace was one-upped. His counterpart, Oklahoma State starter Thomas Hatch tossed a five-hit shutout.
“They were like mirror images going out against each other,” Gauchos second baseman JJ Muno said. “I thought Shane was unbelievable, as always.”
Bieber fell to 12-4, and UCSB fell to the losers’ bracket, in a matter of minutes in the bottom of the fourth when he allowed three straight singles to lead off the inning.
Before the inning, he retired eight of 10 (the ninth out came on a caught stealing). Starting with a lineout double play, he retired 14 of the final 15 batters he faced.
“I think it was just the fourth inning where I lost my sharpness,” Bieber said. “I compounded multiple mistakes in a row, and they took advantage of it, hit the ball hard, and that was the game.”
Three hits came quickly, but the right-hander yielded only three hits in his other seven innings.
“It felt like one run today was worth maybe three, just because it didn’t seem like things were coming easy for [the] offenses,” Cowboys coach Josh Holliday said.
Over those final 15 outs, OSU got four balls to the outfield as Bieber worked ahead and attacked the Cowboys. He induced six ground balls, including three in his eighth and final inning. And, he had superb infield defense behind him all day.
“Shane was outstanding for us today,” UCSB coach Andrew Checketts said. “Gave us a chance.”
Muno added, “It was fun to watch and fun to play behind him.”
On this day, only the result wasn’t fun.
On most days, the effort would have been more than enough.