LA JOLLA, Calif. - The 24th-ranked University of California San Diego baseball team overturned an early 4-0 deficit to defeat local foe San Diego Christian College, 7-5, in its second of three preseason exhibitions at Triton Ballpark on Thursday night.
UC San Diego had surrendered a five-run ninth to drop its first exhibition, 5-4, to visiting Hope International on Jan. 17, before a couple of weather postponements.
On Thursday, the Tritons answered a four-run second, which featured a two-run double into the right field corner from Justin Hawkins, with a three-run home half.
Redshirt senior centerfielder Brandon Shirley reached via infield error with one away and swiped second, advancing to third as the SDC catcher lofted his throw into the outfield. Following a two-out walk to redshirt junior catcher Steven Coe (Valley Center/Valley Center HS), redshirt freshman shortstop Keenan Brigman came up in the clutch with an RBI single to center to get UCSD on the board. With two more Tritons in scoring position, redshirt junior second baseman Tim White pulled a two-run single through the right side. All three runs were unearned due to the error.
Despite the visitors manufacturing a tally in the third through a leadoff single, two stolen bases and a groundout, UCSD leveled matters with a two-run frame in its next turn to bat. Once again, it began with an infield miscue as Justin Flatt's routine pop-up was dropped by the third baseman. Shirley then beat out a one-out infield single, ahead of junior Jesse Moore's two-run double that rolled to the wall in left.
The Tritons finally took their first lead, and took it for good, on senior infielder JD Hearn's solo blast to left following two deep flyouts to center in the fourth.
Sophomore right-hander Kyle Lucke took the hill in the sixth and turned in UCSD's first perfect frame of the evening on a called third strike, popout and flyout.
In the seventh, redshirt junior left-hander Travis Roberts came on to face SDC's cleanup hitter, Brooks Fages, with the tying run at first, but got the senior left-hander chasing to maintain the slight edge for the home side.
UCSD tacked on an insurance run in the eighth. Shirley drew a six-pitch walk for starters, stole second and sped home on Moore's single through the left side. Speaking of speed, true freshman Brandon Stewart then laid down a perfect first-pitch bunt down the third base line that left Fages with no chance. With Moore standing on third, Stewart, too, stole second, but that was all the Tritons could get.
Moore wound up 2-for-4 with his double and three RBI. Shirley was 1-for-3 with a walk, three runs scored and two steals. Hearn went 2-for-3 with his home run and a hit-by-pitch. White was 1-for-2 with a walk, two RBI and one steal.
Each team had four steals in the contest.
On the mound, Kyle Mora took the winning decision in relief of starter and fellow sophomore right-hander Jonah Dipoto. Mora went 3.0 innings and gave up a single run on two hits and a walk, striking out one. Lucke ended up with 1.2 scoreless frames. Junior right-hander Jack Rupe, Jr. (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS) worked a 1-2-3 eighth with two swinging punchouts after a groundout. Tim Nelson earned the save, shutting the door with a perfect ninth. The sophomore right-hander induced a pair of groundouts around a strikeout.
For the Hawks, who actually out-hit UCSD, 9-8, Fages and Bobby Mead had two hits apiece. Matt Meggers took the loss. Four of the Tritons' seven runs were unearned against SDC's five pitchers through three total errors.
The 2017 Tritons scrimmage former Tritons in the annual Alumni Game on Friday, Jan. 27. UC San Diego then rounds out the exhibition slate on Tuesday, Jan. 31, with a rescheduled contest against Biola University. First pitch for both of those games at Triton Ballpark in La Jolla is set for 6 p.m. Admission is free.