LA JOLLA, Calif. - Seventh-ranked University of California San Diego dropped an 8-3 decision to 14th-ranked California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) rival Cal Poly Pomona in the opener of a four-game baseball series Thursday night at Triton Ballpark.
A second straight loss moved UC San Diego to 9-5 overall and 5-4 in the CCAA. First-place CPP improved to 7-4 overall and 4-1 in league play. The series pits the winners of the last three NCAA Division II West Region titles, with the Tritons defending champions, after the Broncos had grabbed the 2015 and 2016 crowns.
UC San Diego left the bases loaded in the home third, and Cal Poly Pomona in turn led off the fourth with a home run before filling the bags and posting a four-run frame in all that the Tritons were unable to recover from. The long ball, a towering shot pulled just inside the foul pole in right, was the first of freshman leftfielder Cesar Lopez's career. Leadoff hitter Drew Cowley, also a freshman, later had a two-run single.
Lopez added his first collegiate triple in the fifth to drive in sophomore designated hitter Brennan McKenzie, who had led off with a single. After two were gone, Lopez finally himself trotted home on freshman Nick Peifer's first-pitch single up the middle.
UCSD's two-run rally in the home half all came with two away. Zander Clarke singled up the middle and Blake Baumgartner walked. Steven Schuknecht then snuck an RBI single inside the right field line, and on the very next pitch, junior first baseman Rj Prince produced an opposite-field RBI single to right to make it a 6-2 deficit.
Redshirt freshman right-hander Antonio Barrios, who got a called third strike to get out of the fifth, then put together a 1-2-3 shutdown sixth on two more strikeouts and a groundout, but the Tritons reciprocated by going down quickly in their own half.
After the pair of Bronco runs in the eighth, Prince opened the bottom of the inning by walking, moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a Michael Palos groundout, and scored on another groundout by Justin Beck. Redshirt sophomore right-hander Blaine Jarvis notched a perfect ninth on two swinging strikeouts and a flyout. Despite two one-out singles in their last at-bat, the Tritons came up empty for the 8-3 final.
Of the Tritons' nine hits, Clarke (3-5) and Alex Eliopulos (2-5) accounted for five of them in the 2-3 spots of their order. Clarke scored a run. Eliopulos is the reigning CCAA Player of the Week.
Senior right-hander Mitch Hickey (1-2) took the loss for UC San Diego, allowing six runs on seven hits and four walks over 4.2 innings, striking out five.
CPP broke the game up into two effective pitchers. Junior left-hander Austin Isenhart (3-0) handled the first five frames and earned the win, giving up a pair of runs on six hits and a season-high four walks. He fanned four. San Diego product and like Eliopulos a La Jolla High School graduate, junior right-hander Tim Holdgrafer, took the final four innings and picked up his first save as a Bronco. The Grossmont College transfer struck out five and surrendered a single tally on three hits and a walk.
The second matchup between UC San Diego and CPP has been moved to an earlier 2 p.m. first pitch, still at Triton Ballpark, on Friday afternoon, March 2, in order to try and get ahead of the expected rain later in the evening. Admission will be charged ($5 general) and parking permits are required, but those unable to attend can watch for free on UCSDtritons.tv, without audio commentary.
Triton Notes: Rj Prince was back in the lineup at first base after exiting the first game of Saturday's doubleheader at Cal State Dominguez Hills after just the first pitch of his initial at-bat in the opening inning, due to a slight injury to his hand ... Prince started in place of fellow junior Tyler Durna, unavailable for a fifth straight game due to injury ... Redshirt freshman Blake Baumgartner batted cleanup for the second game in a row ... Blaine Jarvis made his first mound appearance since the home opener on Feb. 9.