CARSON, Calif. - Twelfth-ranked University of California San Diego went ahead on three occasions but was answered each time in losing to Cal State Dominguez Hills, 12-6, in the opener of a four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) South Division baseball series at Toro Field on Thursday afternoon.
With the defeat, UC San Diego fell to 25-11 overall and 17-9 in the CCAA. Cal State Dominguez Hills moved to 14-25 overall and 12-17 in league play. The Tritons were coming off of their first series loss of 2017, three games to one against Cal Poly Pomona last weekend, while the Toros were winners of four straight through a sweep over Cal State San Marcos. UCSD's lead over CPP atop the CCAA South has now shrunk to just a single game.
UCSD jumped on the scoreboard in its first turn at the plate, courtesy of a two-run home run on a 1-2 offering to right center by Jack Larsen after fellow senior JD Hearn's one-out single. It was Larsen's team-best sixth long ball of the season.
The Toros got one of those runs right back in the home half, as Esteban Ortega doubled to left with two away after Brandon Polizzi had led off with an infield single and moved to third on consecutive groundouts.
The early lead evaporated altogether in the second, as once again the home side got a clutch RBI hit with two gone after putting the leadoff man on. Daryl Donerson drew a four-pitch walk from redshirt senior right-hander Troy Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS) and sprinted to second on a wild pitch with two outs. On the very next toss by Cruz, Trevor North slid a single through the left side for a 2-2 tie.
The Tritons went back ahead in the third, as Tyler Howsley sent a leadoff single up the middle, moved to second on Tim White's groundout, and scored on Hearn's double to center. Larsen took his base on four straight pitches outside the zone. Sophomore first baseman Tyler Durna then extended his hit streak to 22 games by pulling an RBI single through the right side. Brandon Shirley walked to load the bases, and Larsen scored on Justin Flatt's fielder's choice ground ball, the Toro catcher charged with a fielding error on his first baseman's throw to the plate.
In the bottom of the third, Cruz retired the leadoff man for the first time, but another infield single and RBI double into the gap in left center quickly got CSUDH a run closer once more. With Toros at second and third, an RBI groundout, followed by another two-out RBI base hit, leveled matters again at 5-5.
Larsen opened the fifth with a single up the middle and scooted to second on a failed pickoff attempt. Durna beat out an infield hit to put Tritons at the corners, but a fielder's choice ground ball cut Larsen down at the plate for the first out. Flatt worked the count full and walked to fill the bags. Joe Bresson threw another ball to Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) to force a mound visit, then fired three more that missed the zone as Durna came across with the go-ahead run. The senior right-hander induced a 6-4-3 double play on his first pitch to Michael Palos to keep it 6-5.
Cal State Dominguez Hills responded yet again, wasting no time in doing so with Ortega beginning the home fifth with his first home run on the year. Three consecutive singles loaded the bases ended Cruz's day. Adrian Guzman greeted Kyle Lucke with a two-run double inside the left field line and the hosts had their first lead of the contest. An RBI groundout and an opposite-field RBI Polizzi single had the Tritons suddenly chasing 10-6. CSUDH batted around in the frame.
The Toros added a pair in the sixth.
Cruz (4-2) allowed nine runs on 11 hits and two walks over four-plus innings. He struck out a season-high four in his first start of 2017. Cruz needed 11 pitches to get through his only 1-2-3 frame in the fourth on a strikeout, flyout and popout. True freshman right-hander Ted Stuka turned in a perfect ninth with one strikeout
Larsen finished 2-for-4 with a walk, home run, two runs and two RBI. Hearn was 3-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI. Durna added a 3-for-5 effort with a run and RBI. Howsley went 2-for-3 with one run.
Bresson (5-5) went 5.2 innings and gave up six runs, five of them earned, on nine hits and four walks, striking out two. He worked a perfect second, all on the infield.
UCSD and Cal State Dominguez Hills continue their series with another afternoon affair in Carson on Friday, April 21. First pitch at Toro Field is again set for 3 p.m.
Triton Notes: Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 145 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 100 straight games, all of them starts ... JD Hearn has appeared in 67 games in a row, all of them starts ... Hearn, Howsley and Larsen are the only Tritons to appear in all 36 games this season ... Troy Cruz drew his first starting assignment of the season after 12 relief stints ... It was the first mound start for Cruz since May 2, 2015, 31st of his college career, and first in a series opener ... Tim White was the starting designated hitter for the first time as a Triton ... Larsen's first-inning home run was the 18th of his career, and increased his team-leading RBI total to 29 ... Tyler Durna extended his team-best streaks to 27 straight games reaching base and 22 with a hit ... The hit streak is a record for the program's NCAA Division II era (since 2001) ... The nine runs, nine earned runs and 11 hits off of Cruz were all career highs ... Kyle Lucke made his first appearance since April 1, and Ted Stuka his first since March 26 ... Keenan Brigman's eighth-inning steal was his fourth in five tries ... UCSD surrendered a double-digit run total for just the second time in 2017 ... The Tritons dropped the opener of a CCAA series for the fourth straight week and fifth out of the last six ... The 16 hits by the Toros marked a new season high against UCSD ... The Tritons have allowed double-digit hit totals in five of the last six games.