SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Having lost three straight for the first time all year, the No. 23 University of California San Diego baseball team mended morale in a big, big way Thursday afternoon at Fiscalini Field, using five home runs and 11 extra-base hits among 20 in all to batter Cal State San Bernardino, 19-5, in the opener of a four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series.
UC San Diego improved to 30-14 overall and 22-12 in the CCAA. The Tritons moved to within 1.5 games of idle CCAA South leader Cal Poly Pomona (24-11). They have reached the 30-win mark for the fourth straight season and fifth time in six years under head coach Eric Newman. CSUSB, which entered on a three-game win streak, fell to 14-33 overall and 11-24 in league play.
Trailing 1-0 through three, UCSD sent 12 to the plate, with two home runs, two doubles, three singles, one walk and two wild pitches, during a seven-run fourth. The Tritons then batted around again in a nine-run fifth, with 14 batters, two more home runs and two more doubles among nine hits, two walks and a wild pitch.
Tyler Howsley led off the third with the Tritons' first hit of the afternoon, in the form of his fifth double on the year. The senior shortstop was left stranded there, however, after a flyout and a pair of strikeouts from the top of the UCSD order.
Senior CSUSB leftfielder and leadoff man Dillon Fahr's second home run of 2017, pulled over the left field wall, began the home half and opened the scoring.
Three tosses into the fourth, UCSD had men at the corners, and by the time the frame was finished, the scoreboard read 7-1 in favor of the visitors. Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) doubled down the right field line, and Brandon Shirley beat his bunt out for an infield single. The fifth-year senior scooted over to second on a wild pitch. True freshman leftfielder Chad Crosbie went opposite field to left for his first collegiate sacrifice fly, to level the score. Shirley moved to third on the play, and redshirt freshman second baseman Keenan Brigman's single to left center knocked him in to put the Tritons in front to stay, 2-1. UCSD had runners at the corners again after a Michael Palos single. Howsley was credited with an RBI to plate Brigman on a fielder's choice ground ball, with CSUSB unable to register an out.
Following another fielder's choice, this time causing the second out of the inning, the Tritons surged ahead on the strength of senior third baseman JD Hearn's fifth home run of the season, of the three-run variety, and then sophomore first baseman Tyler Durna going back-to-back on the very next pitch for his sixth. Eliopulos banged his second two-bagger of the inning alone, and Shirley walked, before it was over.
Unfortunately, redshirt senior right-hander Troy Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS) was not able to notch the shutdown frame, registering the first out before giving two of those runs back on a hit-by-pitch, infield error, single and sacrifice fly by Fahr.
It was no matter, as the Triton offense poured it on in the fifth. Larsen first launched a 2-0 pitch for a three-run home run to right to score Brigman and Howsley, who had each provided infield singles around a flyout. Hearn walked, Durna singled, a wild pitch chased Hearn home from third, and a third Eliopulos double in two innings drove in Durna. Shirley greeted a second Coyote relief pitcher, Ryan Wilson, rather rudely, with a first-pitch, two-run home run making it a 14-3 bulge.
The hit parade continued, as Crosbie singled, Brigman walked, and with two away, Howsley added an RBI single and Larsen smacked an RBI double.
Cruz surrendered a second straight two-run frame in the fifth. UCSD answered with three more in the sixth on Shirley's second home run of the day, Palos tacking on an RBI single.
Cruz (6-2) went 5.0 innings and allowed five runs, three of them earned, on six hits, three walks and a hit-by-pitch, striking out five. He put two men on in the first on a leadoff single and one-out walk, but got out of it with a called third strike and a flyout. Another Coyote made his way to second in the second, but again, a strikeout looking and flyout kept him there. Cruz now has two wins, coming consecutively, in his three starts in 2017.
Erik Amundson worked around a leadoff infield single in the sixth and Kyle Lucke tossed a perfect seventh on a called third strike and two groundouts. Tim Nelson dodged a two-out single in the eighth and a fourth sophomore right-hander, Cameron Kurz, got through a one-out hit-by-pitch in the ninth, both fanning one.
Every Triton starter had at least one hit, led by Eliopulos, Shirley and Howsley with three apiece, a season high for the latter. Larsen and Shirley both drove in a season-best four, and Hearn three. Eliopulos, Shirley and Brigman all scored three times. UCSD drew a season-high 10 bases on balls.
Junior right-hander Sabino Ramirez (3-10) gave up seven runs on eight hits and three walks, lasting just 3.2 innings. He did strike out five.
UCSD and CSUSB continue their four-game series with another single meeting at Fiscalini Field in San Bernardino on Friday, May 5. First pitch is again set for 3 p.m.
Triton Notes: Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 153 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 108 straight games, all of them starts ... JD Hearn has appeared in 75 games in a row, all of them starts ... Hearn, Howsley and Larsen are the only Tritons to appear in all 44 games this season, with only Hearn and Larsen starting each ... Troy Cruz drew his third start of 2017 and 33rd of his college career ... Larsen's four-pitch, first-inning walk extended his reached-base streak to a career-best 26 games ... Chad Crosbie's second-inning stolen base was the first of his college career on his first attempt ... Crosbie moved over to center field for the first time to start the home seventh ... Dillon Fahr's home run to lead off the third ended Cruz's shutout streak at 9.0 innings ... Alex Eliopulos' three doubles in the fourth and fifth give him a team-leading 11 ... He is the first Triton to hit three doubles in a game since Nick La Face had four in an 11-7 win at Colorado Mesa on Feb. 12, 2012 ... Tyler Durna's fourth-inning home run extended his reached-base streak to 35, matching La Face's 35-gamer from 2014 and thus now tying for the second-longest in UCSD's NCAA Division II history (since 2001), behind only Jeff Riddle's 41-gamer from 2004 ... Durna's shot was his first long ball since March 26 ... Larsen's home run in the fifth was his team-best eighth, with six coming on the road ... Larsen now has 20 home runs, 226 hits and 133 RBI for his career, ranking No. 8, No. 10 and tied for No. 10, respectively, all-time at UCSD in those categories ... Brandon Shirley's home runs in the fifth and sixth give him a single-season career high of four, and eight for his career ... It was Shirley's first game with multiple home runs as a Triton ... UCSD reached double digits in runs for the ninth time in 2017 ... The Tritons' five home runs and 11 extra-base hits were both season highs ... The five long balls were their most since slamming five in a 9-6 win over Cal Poly Pomona on May 12, 2011, on the first day of the CCAA Championship in Stockton ... The 11 extra-base hits (6 2B, 5 HR) were UCSD's most since 11 (7 2B, 4 HR) in a seven-inning, 26-5 victory at Cal State Monterey Bay on April 15, 2007 ... UCSD has achieved 30-plus wins in 13 of the last 14 years, and 14 of 17 since move up to Division II ... With their combined six hits Thursday, Hearn, Larsen and Shirley each have 50 this season, all tied for second behind Durna's 58 ... The total is a career high for Shirley, while Hearn had exactly 50 a year ago, too.