Photo by: Andy Wilhelm
Senior right-hander Kyle Lucke threw the final two innings and earned the season's first winning decision.

No. 14 UC San Diego Needs Extras to Edge Out Season-Opening Victory at Concordia Irvine

UC San Diego

IRVINE, Calif. - The 14th-ranked University of California San Diego baseball program needed extra innings to down Concordia University Irvine, 3-2 in 10, in the season opener for both teams Friday afternoon at Eagles Field.

Two-time defending NCAA Division II West Region champion UC San Diego (1-0) is the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) head coaches' preseason favorite. Concordia Irvine (0-1) is picked to place third in the Pacific West Conference. The Tritons swept three meetings a season ago, and have now won six straight over the Eagles in all going back to 2017, including three in a row in Irvine.

The deciding run was scored on an error, as four of the five combined tallies on the day were of the unearned variety due to two miscues apiece. Sophomore shortstop and leadoff man Shay Whitcomb led off the 10th with a walk. With one away, Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) lifted an opposite-field single down the left field line. Blake Baumgartner then flew out to deep right center, to move Whitcomb to third. The 2018 CCAA Freshman of the Year rushed home as centerfielder Matt Lautz's throw clicked off the top of second baseman Shane Hersh's glove for a costly error.

Fourth-year senior right-hander Kyle Lucke (1-0) retook the mound for his second frame and registered a perfect home half to close it out and earn the winning decision. Eliopulos threw for the first out despite a slight bobble on the gather. Lucke then fired a 3-2 pitch past swinging shortstop Haloa Dudoit, before a first-pitch flyout to left.

Redshirt junior second baseman Keenan Brigman drew a four-pitch walk with one gone in the first, took second on a wild pitch, and trotted home easily on Eliopulos' RBI double, which the senior third baseman dropped in front of the diving rightfielder on a 1-2 offering just after fouling off a pitch.

The Tritons went on to load the bases with two away as R.J. Prince worked a walk and Steven Schuknecht was contacted by a 3-2 toss, but a strikeout limited the damage.

Concordia jumped up on top in the third with two unearned runs. An infield throwing error after a leadoff single put the hosts in business. A bunt kept Eagles at the corners as Preston Mott spun and fired to get the initial out at second. After getting a nice called third strike on Bailey Collins, the senior left-hander got Jair Donovan to swing through back-to-back pitches to begin his at-bat, but to the redshirt sophomore's credit, he came through with a two-run single up the middle. Following another single and outfield error, Mott got the inning-ending flyout with men at second and third.

UC San Diego tied it in the fifth. Whitcomb's one-out single snapped a string of 10 straight retired by Concordia starter Andrew Stout. Brigman followed with a sharp single to right, but was cut down trying to extend at second on the throw after Whitcomb slid into third. With two gone, Stout was unable to handle Eliopulos' chopper, and Whitcomb was allowed to sprint home safely with the unearned run.

Lucke fanned pinch-hitter Chris Martin II to end the ninth with the winning run at third base. Matt Lautz had led off with a single, moved to second on a bunt, and to third on a flyout.

Mott drew the second season-opening start of his career, and went 5.0 innings while allowing two unearned runs on five hits and no walks. The Clovis product struck out seven. He battled back from a 3-1 deficit to leadoff man Dudoit to register a perfect shutdown frame in the first, two flyouts bookending his first strikeout of the new campaign. Mott set down the first five Eagles in all before a single that beat the infield shift by Hersh in the second. He posted another 1-2-3 shutdown frame in the fifth.

Junior right-hander Brandon Weed (Lemon Grove/Southwestern College/Grossmont HS) took over for Mott and got a swinging strikeout on his first batter in his UC San Diego debut. He went on to notch the 1-2-3 frame with a popout and another punchout. Weed turned away nine of the 10 batters he faced, with three on strikes.

Whitcomb finished 1-for-4 with a walk and two runs. Eliopulos wound up 2-for-5 with the double and RBI. Brigman, Prince and Schuknecht accounted for the other hits.

Stout gave up two runs, one of them earned, on three hits, three walks and a hit-by-pitch over 5.0 innings, striking out seven. The senior right-hander had perfect frames in the third and fourth. Jack Ruegge (0-1) was the tough-luck loser after five stellar innings, done in only by the unearned score in the 10th. The junior fanned six.

The second game of the three-game non-conference series is still slated for a 1 p.m. start back at Eagles Field in Irvine, weather permitting. The set is supposed to head down to La Jolla for its finale on Sunday, Feb. 3, with first pitch on Opening Day at Triton Ballpark now scheduled for 12 p.m., an hour later than the originally-published 11 a.m. Parking is free on East Campus.

Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 36-11-1, including 16-4 since the Division II move for the 2001 season ... The Tritons are 7-1 in openers under Eric Newman and 16-3 in the Division II era ... Alex Eliopulos started his 77th straight game, all at third base ... Shay Whitcomb was in the leadoff spot for the first time since April 28 of last year at Cal State LA, having led the team with 43 appearances in that position of the batting order as a freshman, but not hitting there over the last 15 games of the year ... Christopher Schasteen was in the starting lineup for the first time since Feb. 24, 2018 ... Preston Mott drew the 44th mound start of his career, becoming the first Triton pitcher to start multiple openers (2017) since all-time wins, innings and strikeouts leader Tim Shibuya in 2010 and 2011 ... Eighth-year head coach Eric Newman served his one-game suspension for having been ejected from UC San Diego's season finale in Cary, N.C., last May 30 against Southern New Hampshire ... Jonathan Johnston, back in the UC San Diego dugout for the first time since the 2014 West Region final, was in charge of the Tritons ... The original start time of the game was 2 p.m., but was pulled forward to 1 p.m. due to weather concerns.

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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For complete coverage and information regarding UC San Diego Athletics, follow the Tritons online at UCSDtritons.com and through social media on Twitter (@UCSDtritons), Instagram (@ucsdtritons) and Facebook (UCSDtritons). For more information on UC San Diego Baseball, follow on Twitter (@UCSDbsb) and Instagram (@ucsd_baseball). Head coach Eric Newman is also on Twitter (@CoachEricNewman).

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