SAN FRANCISCO - The 10th-ranked University of California San Diego baseball team benefited from solid outings by two pitchers in downing SF State, 6-2, in the opener of a three-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series at Maloney Field on Thursday afternoon.
With a third straight win, UC San Diego improved to 16-4 overall and 8-2 in the CCAA. The Tritons remain in first in the CCAA South. SF State, in last place in the North, fell to 4-17 overall and 2-11 in league play.
Sophomore left-handed ace Preston Mott (6-0) went 5.1 innings and allowed two runs, one of them earned, on seven hits and one walk, to pick up his sixth winning decision against zero losses over seven starts. He struck out one, posting a shutdown frame in the third. The Clovis native's only perfect inning came in the fifth on a flyout, popout and groundout. Mott is now 2-0 in road stints in 2017.
Redshirt junior right-hander Kyle Goodbrand retired the first eight batters he faced and 11 of 12 in all to preserve Mott's victory for his second save, in his second appearance back since getting hit in the face by a hard liner exactly one month prior on Feb. 16 at home against Western Oregon. He walked one and struck out one, inducing six ground-ball outs against four on fly balls
"Kyle looked good and built on his outing from last week," said UCSD head coach Eric Newman. "He had good command and life on his fastball, and threw some quality sliders. It's great to see him getting back into form."
Each team advanced a man to second base in the initial frame, but was unable to notch the game's first run.
UCSD came right back out and began the second with three successive hits off of SFSU starter Dillon Houser. Senior third baseman JD Hearn, who had a putout and two assists defensively in the first, opened that second with a single to left center, and Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/San Diego Mesa College/La Jolla HS) doubled to the opposite gap. Redshirt junior catcher Steven Coe's (Valley Center/Valley Center HS) single through the left side made it 1-0. Tyler Durna then grounded into a 3-6 double play, but Eliopulos came across to double the early advantage.
The home side produced a pair of one-out singles around an infield error to grab one of those runs back during its turn. Another single loaded the bases, before an infield single tied the game at 2-2. Mott limited the damage to just that much, getting a comebacker and completing the play at the plate ahead of a popout.
The Tritons went back in front in the third, as Brandon Shirley reached on a fielder's choice for the second out, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Jack Larsen's double to right center. Eliopulos' RBI single after an intentional base on balls to Hearn, again made it a two-run lead. Coe was plunked to fill the bags, but Durna grounded out to keep the score at 4-2.
Johnny Juarez led off the home sixth with a double to left center. Mott picked a good time for his first and only strikeout of the game, before giving way to Goodbrand, who got two fly balls to keep Juarez at second.
UCSD added two insurance runs in the ninth as Durna led off by pulling a double to right center, moved to third on Tyler Howsley's right-sided groundout, and scored on Tim White's single through the right side. White swiped second and then third, and pinch-hitter Justin Flatt drew a walk off of new pitcher Brett Elgin to put Tritons at the corners still with just one away. Shirley's sacrifice fly made it 6-2.
Goodbrand retired the top of the Gator order, in order, on three groundouts in the seventh. He set the hosts down without issue in the eighth as well, this time on a strikeout and two more groundouts, and worked through a leadoff walk in the ninth.
"The guys competed well today across the board," summed up Newman. "Preston gave us a chance to win and we had some good at-bats early in the game and late in the game that allowed us to get and extend the lead."
Eliopulos was 2-for-3 with a double, walk, run scored and RBI. Hearn also went 2-for-3 with an intentional walk, run and stolen base.
Houser (0-5) gave up four runs, two of them earned, on five hits, three walks, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch over 6.0 frames, striking out two. The junior left-hander had the day's first 1-2-3 inning by either side in the fourth with three flyouts, and followed that up with another one in the fifth.
Juarez finished 3-for-4 with a double and run scored for the Gators. Leadoff man Jacob Lopez was 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI.
UCSD and SF State conclude their three-game series with a doubleheader on Friday, March 17. First pitch at Maloney Field is set for 11 a.m., with both contests of the regulation nine-inning variety.
Triton Notes: Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 129 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 84 straight games, all of them starts ... Larsen was back in the cleanup spot after two games in the No. 2 position of the order ... Larsen is now just three hits shy of becoming the 16th player in program history to reach 200 for his career ... Preston Mott made his team-best seventh start of the year and 21st of his Triton career ... Mott is the CCAA's first six-game winner, with nobody else yet at five ... The doubles by Alex Eliopulos, Larsen and Tyler Durna were their fourth, third and fourth, respectively ... JD Hearn's eighth-inning steal was his fourth in as many tries ... Tim White's ninth-inning steals give him six, tied for the team lead, in seven attempts ... It marked the first multi-steal game of White's college career ... Triton pitching totaled two strikeouts after 16 in its previous game last Sunday, the staff's highest output since 2012.