Photo by: Andy Wilhelm
Blake Baumgartner opened his home run account for 2019 with a three-run blast in the third inning Sunday.

Baum's Away! No. 14 UC San Diego Powers Past Concordia Irvine in Home Opener to Clinch Series Victory

UC San Diego

LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 14 University of California San Diego baseball team got early home runs from redshirt sophomore roommates Brandon Stewart and Blake Baumgartner and hung on late for a 6-4 victory in its home opener over Concordia University Irvine Sunday at Triton Ballpark.

California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) preseason favorite UC San Diego improved to 2-0 with the result, and clinched its season-opening series with Concordia (0-2), picked to finish third in the Pacific West Conference. The middle game of the set that was supposed to be played in Irvine on Saturday, was washed out by rain. That contest is expected to be made up eventually, but not on Monday.

The Tritons won 3-2 in 10 innings in both teams' opener in Irvine on Friday afternoon. They had swept three meetings a season ago, and have now taken seven straight over the Eagles in all going back to 2017, including four in a row in La Jolla.

Like Friday, UC San Diego got a single run in its first at-bat through Keenan Brigman after reaching base with one out. This time, the redshirt junior second baseman singled up the middle, moved to third on Baumgartner's two-out single into left, and scored as senior rightfielder R.J. Prince expertly worked a two-strike count to find the hole between third base and shortstop for an RBI single.

Concordia got that tally right back in the top of the second, thanks to junior centerfielder Matt Lautz's first home run of 2019 with one away.

Stewart, a Temecula product (Great Oak HS), answered that blast with one of his own, also to left, to lead off the home second. It was his first long ball at Triton Ballpark, having connected on one away from home in his first on-the-field season in 2018.

Brigman and preseason All-American Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) opened the third with back-to-back singles, setting the stage for Baumgartner's hammered opposite-field shot over the wall in right center for a 5-1 bulge.

Concordia would not go away, grabbing single runs in the fourth and fifth, both on RBI fielder's choice groundouts. Lautz began the fourth with a triple and scored, getting the hard half of the cycle out of the way before settling for just those two hits.

The Tritons got a huge insurance marker through a two-out rally in the sixth. They loaded the bases with two away through an infield error, Brigman walk and another opposite-field Eliopulos single, as the senior left-hander hit a cue shot right at the third-base bag. Baumgartner fell behind 0-2 against junior left-hander Ren Martin, but then took three close balls, fouled one off, and accepted ball four to force sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb across the plate for a 6-3 advantage.

The visitors pulled one back in the seventh to round out the scoring, but it could have been much worse for UC San Diego if not for Blaine Jarvis. The redshirt junior right-hander took over for Jonah Dipoto with the run already in and Eagles at the corners through a leadoff walk and successive singles from the top of the order. Facing the heart of the Concordia lineup, Jarvis first popped up redshirt sophomore designated hitter Jair Donovan. A wild pitch pushed the tying run into scoring position, but Jarvis was unfazed, freezing cleanup hitter Cooper Moore on a 3-2 pitch on the inside corner and getting Lautz to fly out to center.

Kyle Lucke, like Dipoto a fourth-year senior right-hander, took it from there, retiring six of the seven batters he faced and working around a two-out single in the ninth. Eliopulos made a nice play for the second out, the third baseman gliding over to the railing in foul territory for a back-handed snare. Lucke earned his first college save.

Junior right-hander Luke Mattson, a first-year transfer from Golden West College, went three-plus innings in his Triton debut and gave up two runs on six hits and one walk. The Orange native struck out four. Mattson dialed up a 1-6-3 double play to get out of the first following a leadoff single and his initial strikeout, on three tosses. All seven throws that inning went for strikes. After the home run in the second, the Eagles moved men to second and third with two gone, but Mattson got an easy groundout to Whitcomb. A comebacker, strikeout and flyout wiped out a leadoff single in the third.

Dipoto (1-0) was the winner in relief of Mattson, matching his 3.0 innings (3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO). His sixth and Lucke's eighth were the Tritons' only perfect frames on the afternoon. Dipoto needed just seven pitches to register his.

Baumgartner finished 2-for-3 with the home run, two walks, run scored and four RBI, falling one shy of matching his collegiate high. Eliopulos was 3-for-5 with a run, while Brigman wound up 2-for-4 with a walk and a pair of runs. Stewart went 1-for-4 with the solo shot and his first stolen base of the year. Prince was likewise 1-for-4 with an RBI. Steven Schuknecht reached base via infield single, hit-by-pitch and walk.

Concordia starter Brett Vansant (0-1) allowed the first five runs, all earned, over 3.1 frames, and took the loss. The third and final Eagle reliever, Nick Manago, struck out six in the seventh and eighth innings around a two-out infield single in the eighth.

If the Tritons are unable to make up their rained-out date with Concordia this week, they will next be in action on Monday, Feb. 11, continuing a season-long eight-game homestand with the openers of another three-game non-conference set against a Concordia side. This one will be from Portland, Ore., and the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The first pitch of that Monday's twin bill, with two regulation nine-inning contests, is set for 2 p.m. Fans are encouraged to arrive early, as parking on East Campus in La Jolla could be a challenge at that hour with classes in session.

Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 37-11-1, including 17-4 since the Division II move for the 2001 season ... Alex Eliopulos started his 78th straight game, all at third base ... The Tritons used the exact same lineup as Friday's opener in Irvine ... The first-inning double play started by Luke Mattson was UC San Diego's first of 2019 after tying for fourth nationally with 54 twin killings in 2018 ... Brandon Stewart's only other collegiate home run came at Cal State San Bernardino last April 21 ... Blake Baumgartner's home run was the sixth of his collegiate career, with only one of his five blasts in 2018 coming at home ... Senior Kyle Lucke registered the final six outs of both victories over the Eagles, earning a win and a save to give him an even 60 career appearances, most among 2019 Triton arms ... Eighth-year head coach Eric Newman was back in the Triton dugout after serving his one-game suspension in Friday's opener in Irvine for having been ejected from the 2018 season finale in Cary, N.C., last May 30 against Southern New Hampshire ... The original start time of the game was 11 a.m., but was pushed back earlier in the week to 12 p.m. to provide extra time for field maintenance after Saturday rain.

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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