HAYWARD, Calif. - The 30th-ranked UC San Diego baseball team rallied from an early 3-1 deficit to run away with a 10-3 seven-inning victory and earn the split of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) doubleheader with Cal State East Bay Friday at Pioneer Baseball Field.
The Pioneers scored three times in the bottom of the ninth inning for a walk-off 5-4 triumph in game one.
With Friday’s results, the Tritons moved to 15-10 overall and 11-7 in the CCAA. East Bay is now 15-11 overall and an even 9-9 in league play, remaining two full games behind UCSD in the CCAA standings. The teams were supposed to begin their four-game set with a single meeting Friday afternoon, but inclement weather forced the alteration toward a Friday doubleheader.
Gradeigh Sanchez was the offensive star for UCSD, as the sophomore leftfielder went 5-for-6 with a cycle on the day of one home run, one triple, one double and two singles. He added three walks, six runs scored, two RBI and one steal. Sanchez reached base in eight of nine plate appearances, and his four runs in the nightcap were a single-game season high for a UCSD player.
“Gradeigh was outstanding at the plate today,” remarked head coach Eric Newman. “He set the tone for us in both games, with the inside-the-park home run and triple, and played a great left field. He was a real sparkplug for us.”
The Tritons also received stellar starting pitching on the afternoon, from sophomore right-hander Justin Donatella in game one and junior left-hander Trevor Scott in the nightcap. Scott turned in the first complete game of his college career.
“We got great starting pitching, but we’ve come to expect that from our guys,” said Newman. “Both Donny and Trevor settled in and pitched well. Honestly, I thought Scott (Zeman) threw the ball well, too. We just didn’t make a couple of plays behind him that we needed to make, and made things tough for him. The last base hit, he completely beat the guy and jammed him, but the ball just flared over Troy’s (third baseman Troy Cruz) head.”
UCSD and CSUEB will attempt to complete their four-game weekend series with single match-ups on Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting. Saturday’s intended start time was pushed back from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pioneer Baseball Field.
UCSD was on the scoreboard just three pitches into game one, as Sanchez hit what ultimately went down as a leadoff inside-the-park home run, with freshman Pioneer leftfielder Marcus Wise having to exit with an apparent injury suffered while making a diving attempt at catching the ball.
The Pioneers looked like they might have something brewing in the second through back-to-back singles, but Brandon Alexander was cut down at third base as the lead runner on the latter, with Sanchez firing from left to fellow sophomore Troy Cruz.
Nick La Face’s team-leading ninth double of the year, to center field on a 3-2 offering by former teammate Nick Hudson, opened the fourth frame. Good situational baseball by UCSD doubled its lead, as La Face moved to third on a right-sided groundout by fellow senior Justin Rahn, and scored on Michael Mann’s sacrifice fly.
While that was going on offensively, Donatella was dealing once again. The Triton ace set down all nine East Bay batters he faced between the third and fifth innings, very symmetrically getting a strikeout swinging, a strikeout looking and a groundout in each frame. He got Alexander staring at a third strike on a 3-2 pitch to end the fourth.
With Hudson having also retired nine straight opposing batters, senior catcher Tyler Buchanan finally ended Donatella’s streak when he sent the sixth inning’s first pitch into left center for a leadoff double. After a popped-up bunt and lineout had Buchanan still standing on second, Ryan Kochan’s RBI single to center made it 2-1.
Hudson struck out Rahn to open the seventh for 10 straight retired with three in a row on strikes, but his run was also snapped by an extra-base hit, this one Mann’s first home run at UCSD, to left center on a 2-1 pitch as the Tritons answered right back. Jack Larsen followed with a two-out single before Garrett Tuck worked an eight-pitch walk, the first issued by either starter on the day, but Brett Levy grounded out to Hudson to keep the score at 3-1.
Consecutive singles by Alexander and Jason Fletcher put Pioneers at the corners with no outs to begin the home seventh. Alexander’s was a bunt single on the first pitch of the frame. An RBI fielder’s choice grounder by Kelly Starnes pulled East Bay within a single run once again. Two more fielder’s choices got Donatella out of it.
Once again, the Tritons responded, as Sanchez drew a leadoff walk off of new Pioneer pitcher Bryce Vidmar, moved to second on a balk, to third on a single by Erik Lewis, and trotted home on La Face’s RBI single to left. It would eventually turn out that UCSD could have used more than one more score, but Rahn’s sacrifice bunt to advance Lewis and La Face was followed by a groundout and a strikeout.
Senior right-hander Scott Zeman relieved Donatella, and after a 1-2-3 eighth, was faced with his first base-runner when Eren Miravalles reached on an infield error on the first pitch of the last half. With one gone, UCSD had issued its only walk of the game, to Fletcher, as the tying run reached base. Fletcher went down 0-2 before fouling one off and then taking four straight out of the zone from Zeman.
Reaching another two-strike count, Zeman surrendered a single to Starnes that left the bases full of Pioneers, still with just one away. Daniel Carney’s first-pitch single to left drove in two and knotted the score at 4-4. Two pitches later, Buchanan’s single, also to left, ended it in walk-off fashion as Starnes crossed with the winner.
The final result spoiled another great outing by Donatella, who went 7.0 innings and allowed two runs on six hits and no walks, striking out seven. He went without a decision for the first time in five league starts, previously a perfect 4-0. He also retired the Pioneers in order in the first on a groundout, flyout and strikeout. Zeman (2-2) took the loss.
Sanchez was 2-for-3 with his first collegiate home run, a walk, two runs scored and one RBI. Lewis and La Face each went 2-for-4. Mann had his solo shot and two RBI.
Hudson, a senior right-hander who made seven relief appearances in a Triton uniform in 2010 and 2011, gave up three runs on six hits and one walk over 7.0 innings. He struck out the side around a Sanchez single in the third, fanning nine for the afternoon, and set UCSD down in order in the second, fifth and sixth. Hudson got two called third strikes to wrap up the sixth. Julian Garcia (2-1) earned the win.
The seven-inning nightcap began similarly to the first game, with Sanchez sprinting around bases. This time, it was a first career triple, with Sanchez coming home with the first run on La Face’s RBI groundout two batters later.
Cal State East Bay then produced another three-run rally in the second, with a one-out single and a hit-by-pitch preceding a two-run triple by sophomore catcher Chris Porter and a sacrifice fly at the very bottom of the Pioneer order.
UCSD got one of those runs back in the next half, on a bases-loaded, RBI groundout by Rahn to the right side, following a one-out walk to Sanchez, a Lewis single and infield fielding error.
Scott navigated around a leadoff double in the home third, getting a lineout and a flyout ahead of an infield single to put Pioneers at the corners, before inducing an inning-ending comebacker out of Porter.
The Tritons began to take control in the fourth. Cruz and Larsen began the frame with singles. With one away, freshman shortstop Tyler Howsley laid down a bunt, with an errant throw by the third baseman allowing Cruz to come around for 3-3.
Sanchez continued his strong day, completing his doubleheader cycle with an RBI double into the right field corner for a 4-3 Triton edge. Lewis followed with an RBI double of his own to the opposite side on the next pitch by Sean Becker. La Face’s first walk of the day, his league-leading 25th on the year, loaded the bases as UCSD threatened to blow it open. Rahn’s double to right then plated Sanchez, but Lewis was thrown out at home. Mann struck out to end the inning, up 6-3.
UCSD loaded the bags and tacked on two more runs in the sixth on a Mann sacrifice fly and Cruz single. Sanchez again ignited things there with a leadoff walk and steal.
Scott cleaned up leadoff singles in the home halves of both the fifth and sixth thanks in large part to a pair of 4-6-3 double plays.
The Tritons kept padding their cushion as a Christian Leung double, Howsley walk and Sanchez single loaded the bases once more in the seventh. A four-pitch walk to Lewis and a double-play ground ball extended the bulge to 10-3.
Scott (3-2) went the complete 7.0 innings, with the three runs against him on nine hits and two walks. He struck out three, registering 1-2-3 frames in the fourth and seventh with four groundouts and two strikeouts.
Becker (3-3) gave up six runs, four of them earned, also on nine hits and two walks, striking out just one in 4.0 frames.
“The first game was unfortunate,” concluded Newman. “We thought we played well up until the ninth, where we made two mistakes and the game got away. It was good to see the guys bounce back in game two and play with a sense of purpose and urgency.
“The guys were really upset that they let an opportunity get away. We thought we had it in hand, had it in control. The error to lead off the ninth was a big part of it. Even the play at the plate where (East Bay) tied the score, Gradeigh made a great throw, and we weren’t able to hold onto the ball. Either one of those two plays, the guys felt they let an opportunity slip away. They were determined not to let that happen in the second game.”
Triton Notes: Troy Cruz is the only Triton to start all 25 games, with five coming on the mound ... In game one, Justin Rahn failed to reach base for the first time this season after doing so in each of the first 23 games ... The home runs by Gradeigh Sanchez and Michael Mann in game one doubled the Tritons’ team total in 2014 to four ... Sanchez began the day with one career extra-base hit, and collected a home run, triple and double in the two games ... Over the last 10 games, Nick La Face is 16-for-34 (.471) with six doubles, one triple, 12 walks, nine runs and 13 RBI ... In his final at-bat of the day, La Face grounded into his first double play of 2014 ... Freshman Christian Leung’s leadoff double in the seventh inning of game two marked his first collegiate extra-base hit ... UCSD reached double digits in runs for the fifth time this season in the nightcap, and managed a season-high five doubles ... Rahn’s two doubles marked a single-game career high for the senior ... Before Trevor Scott closed out the nightcap on the mound, Cruz was the only Triton pitcher with a complete game since the 2012 season, with one in both 2013 and 2014.