LA JOLLA, Calif. - Seventh-ranked University of California San Diego suffered a nightmare fifth inning and lost to San Francisco State University, 7-5, Sunday at Triton Ballpark, settling for the split of a four-game baseball series to begin the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) season.
With the defeat, UC San Diego fell to 6-3 overall and an even 2-2 in the CCAA. San Francisco State improved to 2-7 overall and also a 2-2 mark in league play. The Gators bookended wins of 4-1 and 7-5 on Friday night and Sunday, around Saturday's doubleheader sweep by the home side, 10-2 and 5-4 in seven innings.
The Tritons had rallied from a 4-0 deficit to walk off in Saturday's nightcap. SF State returned the favor on Sunday after trailing 4-0 through four frames. The Gators sent 11 men to the plate in a six-run fifth, to take a 6-4 lead it would not relinquish. They took advantage of two Triton errors, as three of the six runs were unearned.
Things had started off nicely for UC San Diego as junior rightfielder Zander Clarke opened his home-run account with a two-run, first-pitch, opposite-field shot to right in the first inning after a one-out Tyler Durna single. It was the first home run in a Triton uniform for the UCLA transfer. The lead grew to 4-0 with single tallies in the third and fourth while junior right-hander Jonah Dipoto looked in command.
Dipoto (1-1) retired the first eight batters in order, needing just 10 pitches in the second, before a two-out infield single in the third, but the Newport Beach product managed to strand a pair of runners in both the third and fourth before the Gators finally got to him in a big way in the fifth. Dipoto actually got his sixth and final strikeout of the day to end the fourth with the bases full.
Jack Harris' two-run home run in the fifth, his second of the season and series, made it 4-3, and the frame kept going. Harley Lopez's solo shot made it 7-4 in the sixth.
UC San Diego almost rallied again in the final frame, like it did on Saturday, but came up short. Shay Whitcomb led off the frame with a five-pitch walk at the top of the order. Clarke later sliced a two-strike RBI single up the middle for 7-5, and the Tritons moved the tying run to second with two away. Michael Palos, pinch-hitting for Rj Prince, worked the count full and fouled off a pair of two-strike offerings, before finally grounding out to shortstop Jackson Kritsch.
That action made a winner out of starter Jeff Piver (1-0), who went the first six frames. Jordan Yrastorza notched the final two outs, and his first save.
Whitcomb finished 2-for-4 with a walk, double and an RBI. Clarke was 3-for-4 with his home run, a hit-by-pitch, one run and three RBI. Durna was 2-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. Freshman Cameron Leonard tossed two scoreless relief innings before redshirt junior Cameron Kurz took over for the final four outs.
UC San Diego has a very short turnaround before starting another four-game CCAA series against Cal State Dominguez Hills at home this Thursday night, Feb. 22. The primetime first pitch for the opener of the split-venue set at Triton Ballpark on East Campus in La Jolla is at 6 p.m. Those unable to attend can watch in high definition on UCSDtritons.tv for a fee of $5.99.
Triton Notes: All seven Triton home runs in 2018 have been to right field ... Redshirt sophomore catcher Nick Kitzmann has been hit by a pitch a team-leading six times already through nine games this season, having totaled that many all of last year.