LA JOLLA, Calif. - A five-run ninth-inning rally doomed No. 24 University of California San Diego in a 5-4 exhibition baseball loss to visiting Hope International University Tuesday night at Triton Ballpark.
Four UC San Diego pitchers tamed the Royals for the first eight frames to the tune of no runs on a solitary hit. The Tritons in fact had a no-hitter going until Lee Mutter sliced an opposite-field double just inside the foul line in right field on an 0-2 offering from sophomore right-hander Kyle Mora with two gone in the eighth.
HIU then erupted for all five of its runs in its final turn, batting around on two hits, one walk, two hit-by-pitches and one costly Triton infield error. That miscue led to the last two of those scores going down as unearned.
The Tritons looked brilliant, at least on the mound, through the first eight innings. Adrian Orozco (Chula Vista/Otay Ranch HS), Preston Mott, Kyle Goodbrand and Mora tossed two each and combined for 12 strikeouts. UCSD fanned 14 Royals in all.
Orozco, a redshirt senior right-hander in his return to Triton Ballpark after spending the past two years at Southwestern College and San Diego State, struck out three and walked one, that coming after back-to-back called third strikes in the second. Mott and Goodbrand were perfect in their outings, with three and four punchouts, respectively. Mott induced three 4-3 groundouts in the third, and fanned the side in the fourth, the last two looking. Goodbrand struck out the side in the sixth.
Offensively, redshirt junior first baseman Justin Flatt got the Tritons on the scoreboard, by going off the scoreboard, pulling a first-pitch, solo shot out to right with one away in the home half of the first. Seniors JD Hearn and Jack Larsen then went opposite field in successive at-bats for a double and RBI single, to make it 2-0. Larsen's was an inside-out swing on a 1-2 count to easily plate Hearn from third.
UCSD doubled the advantage in the fourth. Following Hearn's leadoff infield single, Larsen roped a triple to the deepest part of the park in straightaway center. He then scored on fellow senior outfielder Christian Leung's sharp single to right center.
Flatt contributed defensively as well, making a perfect pick of a short hop by redshirt sophomore third baseman Alex Eliopulos for the final out of the fifth.
Hearn finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs. His second two-bagger came on a 2-2 pitch to the base of the wall in left to lead off the sixth, but Justin Moulds struck out the next three Tritons. Larsen wound up 2-for-3 with his triple, a walk, one run scored and two RBI.
All 27 outs that UCSD registered came either via strikeout, or along the infield.
UC San Diego plays the second of three preseason exhibitions, all at home, this Saturday afternoon, Jan. 21, against another National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) foe in Biola University of La Mirada. First pitch at Triton Ballpark is slated for 2 p.m., weather pending, with rain in the forecast for the remainder of the week. Parking and admission are free.