LA JOLLA, Calif. - Cal Poly Pomona broke a 3-3 deadlock with a single tally in the fifth and broke the game open late, 9-3, to take a 2-0 series advantage over No. 4 University of California San Diego at Triton Ballpark on Friday night.
UC San Diego fell to 24-9 overall and 16-7 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). CPP moved to 20-17 overall and 16-10 in league play. The Broncos had also won the opener of the four-game series on Thursday night in La Jolla, 7-1, and now trail the first-place Tritons by just 1.5 games in the CCAA South.
After a quick 1-2-3 initial frame from junior right-hander Jack Rupe, Jr. (1-2), needing just six pitches to get three groundouts, the Tritons struck for three in the home half off of Bronco starter Jeff Bain (5-2). Jack Larsen, in the leadoff spot for the first time in his four-year college career, worked a six-pitch walk after going down 0-2 in the count, and fellow senior JD Hearn singled to left field. With one gone, Justin Flatt pulled a first-pitch single to right to plate Larsen with the first run.
Brandon Shirley then followed by roping a first-pitch RBI double into the gap in left center. Alex Eliopulos' RBI single to right made it 3-0, but UCSD left Shirley stranded at third as Bain struck out the next two batters. That was a bad sign of things to come, as the Cal transfer gradually settled in. His final line was an intriguing one, as he allowed 11 hits, 10 of them over the first 3.2 frames, while striking out 10 against a single walk in eight complete innings. Bain's final pitch count sat at 127.
Cal Poly Pomona got all three of those Triton runs back right away in the second. Nic Hernandez worked a one-out walk, Jason Padlo singled, and both came sprinting home as Brennan McKenzie lined a first-pitch triple into the gap in left center. McKenzie himself scored the tying run on Chris Stratton's two-out single.
The Broncos went ahead in the fifth through a bases-loaded, fielder's choice RBI groundout by rightfielder Daniel Pitts after Troy Cruz had taken over for Rupe, Jr. Cruz proceeded to get out of that inning without any further damage, through a second straight fielder's choice groundout. That one actually bounded off the mound in front of Cruz, with senior shortstop Tyler Howsley narrowly able to corral it right behind the second-base bag before completing the difficult play to redshirt freshman second baseman Keenan Brigman with a flip from his knees.
Cruz set the Broncos down in order in the sixth and navigated around back-to-back singles to begin the seventh thanks to a 4-6 lineout double play into Brigman's glove and a swinging strikeout of Frankie Nogales. The redshirt senior right-hander then cleaned up a leadoff walk in the eighth with a 4-6-3 double play, but that's when his luck turned. Three straight infield singles, to second base, third base and shortstop, preceded a two-run single up the middle by Jacob Bernardy. The knock snapped a string of 14.1 shutout innings for Cruz.
A three-run home run by Hernandez to right center put the result out of doubet in the ninth. It was the sophomore first baseman's fourth on the year.
Rupe, Jr., got out of the third after a leadoff single with a flyout 8-6-3 double play as Shirley ran down Hernandez's long-ball bid up against the wall in straightaway center. The top of the fourth also ended with a twin killing, that of the 6-4-3 variety after a one-out hit-by-pitch. Howsley dove to his right to glove that third infield single in the eighth to momentarily save a run, ahead of Bernardy's key hit.
Flatt finished with a season-best three hits with a run and RBI over his five at-bats. Shirley was 2-for-5 with a double and RBI. Every Triton starter besides Howsley registered a hit. Larsen went 1-for-3 with two walks and a run.
The series shifts north to Pomona and Scolinos Field for its conclusion on Saturday, April 15. UCSD and CPP will contest a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m., with the nightcap a shortened seven-inning affair. The Tritons will need to win both games to avoid losing their first series of the season.
Triton Notes: Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 142 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 97 straight games, all of them starts ... JD Hearn has appeared in 64 games in a row, all of them starts ... Hearn, Howsley and Larsen are the only Tritons to appear in all 33 games this season ... Tyler Durna extended his team-best streaks to 24 straight games reaching base and 19 with a hit ... Durna continues to lead the league with his .414 batting average ... Jack Rupe, Jr., made his fifth start of the year and 12th of his UCSD career ... In addition to Larsen batting leadoff for the first time, Justin Flatt was in the cleanup spot for the first time in 2017 and second as a Triton ... Durna hit third, his highest position in the Triton batting order ... The Tritons have lost successive home games for the first time in 2017 ... UCSD turned a season-high four double plays.