LA JOLLA, Calif. - The University of California San Diego scored nine runs in the first three innings and cruised to an 11-1 win over Cal State East Bay in the finale of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) baseball series at Triton Ballpark on Saturday. The result secured a much-needed 3-1 series triumph at home for UCSD.
The victory improves UC San Diego to 19-10 overall and 15-9 in the CCAA. Cal State East Bay drops to 14-16 overall and 11-13 in league play. The Tritons had taken Thursday night's opener in another romp, 25-2, before the sides split Friday's doubleheader, with UCSD rallying to win game one, 7-6, and East Bay earning a 6-1 decision in the seven-inning nightcap.
UC San Diego moved into a two-way tie for second with Cal State LA (18-11, 15-9 CCAA), which fell at home to Chico State on Saturday, 6-5, to split that series after winning the first two games. Both teams are a full two games back of leader Cal State Monterey Bay (23-7, 17-7 CCAA). The Otters completed a four-game sweep at Cal State San Marcos.
UC San Diego tallied a pair of runs in the first and third around a five-run outburst in the second that was highlighted by a bases-clearing triple into the right field corner by redshirt sophomore designated hitter Steven Schuknecht. The Tritons tacked on a final couple of runs in the eighth to reach double-figure runs for the ninth time.
On the mound, junior right-hander Jonah Dipoto (2-2) and senior right-hander Mitch Hickey each produced four shutout frames without a single walk. Dipoto scattered three hits, all singles, and fanned two. With a predetermined pitching schedule for the day, he was still credited with his second winning decision to even his record. Dipoto retired East Bay in order in the second.
Hickey was lights out in his first relief appearance after six starts. The first-year Triton from Oregon State set down the first eight Pioneers he faced, with seven of eight on the infield, prior to a two-out single in the eighth. His only other blemish was a one-out hit-by-pitch in the ninth. Hickey's sixth strikeout ended the contest, as he picked up his first save in UC San Diego colors.
Nine of UCSD's 11 runs were driven in by the 2-3-4-5 batters in the order. Tyler Durna was 2-for-4 with his team-best seventh double, a walk, three runs and two RBI. Zander Clarke finished 3-for-5 with his fifth double, two runs and two RBI. A third junior, Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS), went 0-for-4 but was hit by a pitch, scored once and drove in two. Schuknecht was 1-for-3 with that triple, a walk and three RBI.
Back-to-back singles by freshman shortstop Shay Whitcomb and Durna had the Tritons in business early in the opening frame with men at the corners. Clarke knocked in the game's first run by dropping a bloop single into left center. Durna, who had scooted to third on that play, scored on a right-sided ground ball by Eliopulos.
The big second was started by a one-out Nick Kitzmann walk. Brandon Stewart was then hit by a pitch for the seventh time, and Whitcomb drew a four-pitch free pass to load the bases. A pitching change and RBI fielder's choice groundout by Durna preceded a sharp RBI single to left by Clarke. Eliopulos was then also plunked, to fill the bags once more ahead of Schuknecht's triple for a 7-0 bulge.
Dipoto used a nice defensive play to get out of a sticky spot in the third for the second of three successive shutdown frames. With Pioneers at first and second and one away after an infield error, first-pitch single and flyout, Evan Steele laid down a solid bunt. Eliopulos charged from third and made a terrific, bare-handed play, with Durna equal to the task at first as he expertly shifted his feet to his left to receive the throw in foul territory. With men at second and third, Dipoto got a ground ball for the third out.
Kitzmann's second home run of 2018, to left with one away in the third, made it 8-0. After Stewart reached on an error, Whitcomb popped up, but Durna doubled into the right field corner to send the speedy Stewart all the way around from first.
Sophomore right-hander Ted Stuka handled the fifth in between Dipoto and Hickey. A one-out double and two-out walk led into an RBI single for East Bay's only run.
The home eighth began with a Durna walk and Clarke double down the right field line. The Pioneer shortstop booted Eliopulos' hot shot, and that action drove Durna in. An infield single by pinch-hitter Rj Prince loaded the bases, and junior centerfielder Christopher Schasteen's sacrifice fly determined the final outcome.
East Bay starter Donavon Ramirez (0-2) was tagged with the loss.
UC San Diego travels to Chico this Thursday, April 5, taking a third and final regular-season road trip to Northern California. There, the Tritons will begin another four-game CCAA series against reigning regular-season and tournament champion Chico State in primetime on Friday, April 6. First pitch at Nettleton Stadium is set for 6 p.m.
Triton Notes: Alex Eliopulos and Zander Clarke are the only two Tritons to start all 29 games ... Shay Whitcomb's single to lead off the first extended his team-best reached-base streak, as he has started his college career by getting on base in each of his first 28 contests ... Steven Schuknecht's second-inning triple was the second of his year and career ... Nick Kitzmann's third-inning home run was the fourth of his career ... Keenan Brigman's fourth-inning steal was his fourth in five tries ... Kitzmann's seventh-inning hit-by-pitch was his team-best 13th ... Eliopulos' eighth-inning RBI was his team-best 40th, as he is now tied for first in the CCAA ... Having gone 3-for-5, Clarke took over the team lead in batting average, now at .368, just ahead of Tyler Durna (.366), who was 2-for-4 today ... Mitch Hickey's save marked UCSD's fifth this season of three innings or longer.
B2: SCHUUUK!!! Steven Schuknecht ropes bases-clearing triple into right field corner. His 2nd triple of season. #Tritons score 🖐 in frame on just ✌️ hits. 👊— UCSD Triton Baseball (@UCSDbsb) March 31, 2018
7-0 🔱#GoTritons #WinTheSeries #CCAAbsb #d2bsb pic.twitter.com/2Da5BD2rtT