CARSON, Calif. - A three-run, sixth-inning double by senior third baseman JD Hearn ignited the No. 12 University of California San Diego baseball team to a 20-4 demolition of Cal State Dominguez Hills in California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) action Friday at Toro Field.
UC San Diego improved to 26-11 overall and 18-9 in the CCAA in snapping a two-game slide. The Tritons have still yet to lose three in a row in 2017. Cal State Dominguez Hills saw its five-game win streak ended in falling to 14-26 overall and 12-18 in league play. The Toros had taken the opener of the four-game series on Thursday, also at home, by the final score of 12-6. With Cal Poly Pomona blasting Cal State San Marcos at home, 28-12, UCSD remains one full game ahead of the Broncos (18-11) atop the CCAA South.
UCSD's 20 runs on 21 hits, eight walks and six hit-by-pitches were all season highs. The Tritons actually trailed 3-2 through the fifth after relinquishing slight edges of 1-0 and 2-1 over the first two innings. They went back on top through a four-run sixth, thanks largely to Hearn, before virtually erupting for back-to-back seven spots in the seventh and eighth.
Jack Larsen led off the contest by smacking his team-best seventh home run of 2017. It marked the second straight game in Carson for the senior rightfielder to hit one out over the wall in right center on a 1-2 pitch in the very first frame.
The Tritons moved two into scoring position from there, as Tyler Durna worked a one-out walk and Brandon Shirley doubled to right center with two gone. A flyout, however, kept the Toros' damage to a minimum.
CSUDH, like it did three times on Thursday, found the answer, and found it fast in the bottom of the first. Leadoff man Brandon Polizzi reached on a throwing error, and moved first to third on the next pitch on Nick Morelli's single up the middle that just evaded second baseman Keenan Brigman. After a called third strike, Triton starter Adrian Orozco (Chula Vista/Otay Ranch HS) looked like he might have gotten the ground ball he needed for an inning-ending double play, but Brigman's relay was narrowly not in time, enabling Polizzi to score the unearned tying run.
Brigman singled with the first pitch of the second inning, took second on a wild pitch, and promptly put the Tritons back up by one on fellow redshirt freshman Nick Kitzmann's single into center.
A pair of one-out singles got Orozco in trouble again in the second. The redshirt senior right-hander picked Evan Yeager off of first, but Polizzi came through with a two-out RBI single to center for 2-2.
UCSD threatened in the fourth but came up empty. Kitzmann was plunked to start it off, moved to second on a passed ball, and to third on Tyler Howsley's bunt ahead of a walk to Larsen. Hearn flew out into shallow right center, however, and the Toros were just able to throw out Durna at first on a ground ball to the right side.
CSUDH took its first lead of the day in the home half. Adrian Guzman and Yeager notched successive singles, and back-to-back fielder's choice ground balls scored the run as UCSD was unable again both times to turn the double play.
The Tritons filled the bags off of Toro reliever Joe Mercado in the sixth on a leadoff infield single by Brigman, seven-pitch walk with one gone to Howsley, and Larsen hit-by-pitch on Mercado's next offering. Hearn cleared them with his team-best eighth double of the season to the wall in center. He moved to third on a wild pitch, and Durna battled back from 1-2 to draw a six-pitch base on balls. After a pitching change, Alex Eliopulos' (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) sacrifice fly made it 6-3.
Following a 1-2-3 shutdown effort from Orozco, UCSD blew it open with a seven-run seventh as 10 men came to the plate. Brigman and Howsley were each plunked around a Kitzmann groundout, and Larsen's RBI single to right truly tested the floodgates. Hearn's free pass loaded the bases. Durna expertly worked the count full and with no place to put him, Toro reliever Joshua Gogue had to throw a strike.
Durna, 0-for-2 at the time and running out of time to extend his remarkable 22-game hit streak, made Gogue pay, belting a three-run triple just inside the right field line. On the second pitch after another change on the mound, Eliopulos doubled into the gap in right center to score Durna. Shirley singled, and with runners at second and third, Chad Crosbie's first-pitch single to center plated both for a 13-3 bulge.
The key blow in the seven-run eighth was a pinch-hit, three-run double by redshirt senior Troy Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS) in his first at-bat of the season. The inning began with eight straight tosses outside the strike zone by Octavio Lara. Another 10 Tritons took their hacks, six of them pinch-hitters.
Orozco (7-0) went 6.0 innings and allowed three runs, two of them earned, on eight hits and one walk, striking out four. Three of those punchouts came to end the first three frames, with a combined five Toros on base in those instances, including two each in the first and third. Orozco's first perfect inning, the first by either team, came in the fifth. He duplicated that in the sixth and ended his stint by registering outs on his final nine batters faced, six of them on ground balls.
Shirley produced his first collegiate five-hit game, going 5-for-6 with two doubles, two runs and one RBI. Hearn finished 1-for-4 with a walk, double, two runs and three RBI. Larsen was 2-for-3 with his home run, a walk, hit-by-pitch, three runs and two RBI. Brigman was 2-for-4 with a hit-by-pitch, stolen base, three runs and an RBI.
Junior right-hander Nick Suniga gave up two runs on eight hits, two walks and two hit-by-pitches in 5.0 strong innings. He struck out one. Mercado (2-2) took the loss.
UCSD and Cal State Dominguez Hills head south to conclude their series with a doubleheader at Triton Ballpark on East Campus in La Jolla on Saturday, April 22. First pitch for game one is set for 1 p.m. The nightcap is scheduled for seven innings. General admission is $5 and parking is free. The twin bill can be viewed in high definition for a fee of $5.99 on UCSDtritons.tv.
Triton Notes: Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 146 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 101 straight games, all of them starts ... JD Hearn has appeared in 68 games in a row, all of them starts ... Hearn, Howsley and Larsen are the only Tritons to appear in all 37 games this season ... Adrian Orozco made his 10th start of the year and 11th of his Triton career ... True freshman Chad Crosbie drew his second collegiate start and first in left field after starting in right field at SF State on March 17 ... Larsen was in the leadoff spot for just the third time in his career, all coming this month ... Larsen's first-inning home run was the 19th of his career ... It was Larsen's first career home run to lead off a game, and UCSD's second in 2017 after Brandon Shirley on the very first pitch at Stanislaus State on April 1 ... Larsen increased his team-leading RBI total to 31 ... Tyler Durna extended his team-best streaks to 28 straight games reaching base and 23 with a hit ... The hit streak is a record for the program's NCAA Division II era (since 2001) ... Durna continues to lead the CCAA with his .412 average ... Durna's triple was his team-best third of the year and fourth of his career ... UCSD scored in the first inning for the fifth straight game ... Howsley's fourth-inning sacrifice was his team-best 10th of the year and 31st of his four-year career, breaking a tie with another former great shortstop, Vance Albitz, for No. 1 in the program's Division II history ... Crosbie's fifth-inning double was his fourth ... Keenan Brigman's sixth-inning steal was his fifth in six tries ... Brigman finished the game at third base, appearing there for the first time as a collegian ... UCSD's six hit-by-pitches came from six players ... The Tritons scored in double digits for the seventh time in 2017 and first since March 26 ... UCSD's previous season highs were 14 runs and 17 hits ... Having recovered from injury, sophomore right-hander Tim Nelson made his first appearance since Feb. 12 ... Troy Cruz's last at-bat came on March 13, 2016, also at Cal State Dominguez Hills, in his only start before being shut down for the year ... UCSD last eclipsed the 20-run mark in a 20-4 win at Cal State San Bernardino on Feb. 27, 2016, and the 20-hit mark with 20 in a 14-4 victory at CSUDH on March 13, 2016 ... The Tritons matched their season high of eighth extra-base hits ... UCSD improved to 9-1 in Orozco starts.