LA JOLLA, Calif. - Seventh-ranked University of California San Diego dropped an 11-1 decision to No. 4 Colorado Mesa University in a powerhouse non-conference baseball showdown Friday afternoon at Triton Ballpark.
In losing its home opener, reigning NCAA Division II West Region champion UC San Diego is an even 1-1 on the young season. Defending South Central Region champion Colorado Mesa, like the Tritons a national semifinalist a year ago, began its new campaign at 1-0, before suffering a 6-4 setback to Concordia Irvine in the night game.
Colorado Mesa opened the scoring with four runs on five hits in the third inning, and added a single tally in the fifth on an RBI double by Keenan Eaton. A pair of home runs increased the bulge to 8-0 in the eighth, as Eaton produced a solo shot with one away, and catcher Tyler Sandoval followed an infield error with a two-run effort to left.
The Tritons avoided being shut out by grabbing one back in the home eighth. Shay Whitcomb and Tyler Durna drew successive walks for openers. With men at the corners and one out, Alex Eliopulos' RBI groundout plated Whitcomb.
Mesa answered with three more runs in the ninth.
Junior All-American right-hander Kyle Leahy (1-0) tossed the first five frames for the visitors, improving to 16-0 as a college pitcher. Eaton finished 4-for-5 with a double, the home run, two runs and two RBI to lead a 16-hit effort.
The four Triton hits came from Durna, Zander Clarke, Michael Palos and Justin Beck. Durna's was the first to lead off the fourth, off second baseman JJ Carr's glove following a wicked hop in the dirt up the middle.
Senior right-hander Jack Rupe, Jr. (0-1), having earned his first career Opening Day start in front of the home crowd, pitched admirably and at-times effectively despite allowing five runs on 11 hits and taking the loss. He retired the Mavs in order in his first frame, all on the infield
Two pitchers making their college debuts impressed. Redshirt freshman Antonio Barrios took over for Rupe, Jr., and threw 1.2 perfect innings. He got a flyout double play to get out of the fifth, with Clarke firing to Palos to deny the run at the plate. Barrios then set the Mavs down in order in the sixth. True freshman Cameron Leonard fired a 1-2-3 seventh. Both right-handers logged their first collegiate strikeout.
Durna made a vintage stretch for a tough pickup of a Whitcomb throw on a Dominic DeMarco grounder to begin the fifth.
UC San Diego continues a busy home weekend against Concordia Irvine at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Saturday night. The Eagles will first face a rematch with Colorado Mesa at 2 p.m. to begin the day's activity at Triton Ballpark in La Jolla.
Triton Notes: Tritons making their collegiate debuts were true freshmen Garett Lake and Cameron Leonard, and redshirt freshmen Antonio Barrios, Blake Baumgartner and Kyle Selor ... Senior transfer Tom Simpson made his UCSD debut, throwing the ninth inning ... The run in the eighth snapped the Tritons' string of 25 complete innings without a score against Colorado Mesa, having dropped a pair of 2-0 decisions to the Mavericks in La Jolla early in the 2015 season.