SAN MARCOS, Calif. - The 26th-ranked University of California San Diego scored four runs in the first four frames and broke the game wide open with a seven-run ninth in downing Cal State San Marcos, 11-1, in California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) action at CSUSM Baseball Field on Friday afternoon.
With the victory, UC San Diego improved to 32-15 overall and 28-14 in the CCAA. Cal State San Marcos dropped to 20-28 overall and 15-27 in league play. The Tritons take a 2-0 lead in the series, having won Thursday's opener in San Marcos, 15-0.
Second-place UC San Diego moved half a game closer to 15th-ranked league leader Cal State Monterey Bay (35-14, 29-14 CCAA), and heads into the final day of the regular season Saturday, half a game back of the Otters, and still alive for the CCAA regular-season crown. CSUMB split its home doubleheader with Cal State East Bay, winning 17-5 in the opener before getting edged 2-1 in the seven-inning nightcap.
Unofficially, the Tritons have to sweep their home doubleheader on Saturday, and will need CSUMB to lose its series finale in Hayward, also starting at noon, to earn the title. The Otters appear to have the upper hand in tiebreaker scenarios, and there will not be co-champions crowned. Friday's result in San Marcos does now clinch a top-two seed for UC San Diego for next week's CCAA Championship in Stockton.
UC San Diego opened the game with a four-pitch walk to Brandon Stewart and a single by Tyler Durna to right with the count full to put men at the corners right away. Zander Clarke's sacrifice fly made it 1-0 as the junior rightfielder collected his league-leading 59th RBI.
The Tritons added a pair in the second. Freshman shortstop Shay Whitcomb unloaded on a 2-0 offering and blasted his fifth home run of the season and second in as many days, off the scoreboard over the 375 sign in left center to lead things off. It was home run No. 60 for the runaway CCAA leaders in that category. With one away, Keenan Brigman and Blake Baumgartner came up with a sharply-hit single and RBI double into the gap in right center, respectively, for 3-0. Senior catcher Michael Palos' bid for a first career home run was caught at the wall in left after Baumgartner's double.
UC San Diego procured a single tally in the fourth on a one-out, RBI single to right by Palos after a leadoff double to right center by Justin Beck, flyout to move him over to third, and Baumgartner walk to leave Tritons at the corners for a pitching change.
Cal State San Marcos loaded the bases with no outs in the home sixth on a leadoff Tyler Place double and back-to-back walks. Preston Mott then fanned Isaias Torres as the junior designated hitter was unable to check his swing. The junior left-hander then got Jose Osete to pop out softly right back to him on an infield fly, and Joseph Bahna grounded into a fielder's choice to Beck at second.
Junior centerfielder Austin Ott's fifth home run of the season, just to the left of the center field wall, with two gone in the eighth served as the Cougars' first run of the series after 16.2 scoreless innings.
UC San Diego sent 10 to the plate and broke the game open through a seven-run ninth, highlighted and capped by a monster three-run shot by Baumgartner off the top of the scoreboard. It was his fourth of the season. Palos' leadoff single ignited the rally. What followed was a Stewart hit-by-pitch, Durna RBI single that bounced through the middle, and two-run Clarke double to the gap in left center. The first of two pitching changes preceded a flyout, Whitcomb sacrifice fly to the opposite field in right, walk to Beck, and hit-by-pitch to pinch-hitter Rj Prince. Baumgartner's blast came off the second new arm of the frame.
Mott (7-1) threw six shutout innings, allowing three hits and four walks to equal his season high. He struck out five. Mott worked around a single base-runner in each of the first three frames before his only perfect one in the fourth. Beck made a terrific, sliding grab toward the right field line on a popup, ahead of a groundout to Whitcomb and lineout into Alex Eliopulos' (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) glove at third base.
Mott wiped out a leadoff single in the fifth with a first-pitch, tailor-made 6-4-3 double play right to Whitcomb, and a flyout ended the eight-pitch frame.
Redshirt sophomore right-hander Blaine Jarvis was perfect in the seventh with two strikeouts, and also tossed the eighth. Redshirt freshman right-hander Antonio Barrios struck out the side in order, all swinging, after a leadoff single off the tip of a leaping Beck's glove, and a wild pitch.
Baumgartner finished 3-for-4 with a home run, double, walk, run, four RBI and a steal, falling a triple shy of the cycle for the third time this season. Clarke was 2-for-4 with a double, sacrifice fly, run and three RBI. Durna, Beck and Palos added two hits apiece. Stewart and Beck each scored twice. Whitcomb knocked in a pair.
Junior left-hander Brady Corson (1-2), making his first start of the season after 28 relief stints, gave up four runs on five hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch over 3.1 innings. He struck out one. CSUSM was held to five hits for the second day in a row.
The series shifts south to La Jolla for its conclusion as UC San Diego and Cal State San Marcos will meet for a noon doubleheader at Triton Ballpark on East Campus on Saturday, May 5, on Senior Day. Seven outstanding Triton seniors will be recognized in between contests, ahead of a seven-inning finale. UC San Diego will round out the regular season, with CSUSM wrapping up its 2018 campaign. Parking is free all day.
Triton Notes: Alex Eliopulos is the only Triton to start or even appear in all 47 games ... Preston Mott drew his team-leading 12th start of the year and 40th of his career ... Brandon Stewart batted leadoff and Shay Whitcomb fifth, both for the third time this season and second game in a row ... Whitcomb extended his 2018 team-best hit streak to 12 games with his leadoff home run in the second ... Blake Baumgartner's second-inning double was his seventh ... Justin Beck's fourth-inning double was his 10th ... Zander Clarke's ninth-inning double was his 12th ... Keenan Brigman's sixth-inning steal was his eighth on nine tries ... Baumgartner's sixth-inning steal was the first of his college career, on his initial attempt ... Stewart's ninth-inning hit-by-pitch was his 10th ... With two more home runs, the Tritons increased their league-leading season total to 61 ... The Tritons thus have surpassed the 2010 national runner-up team's 60 home runs and matched the 2006 squad for the second-most in a single season in the program's NCAA Division II history (since 2001) ... UC San Diego scored in double digits for the 18th time this season ... Clarke (61) and Eliopulos (57) remain 1-2 in the CCAA in RBI.