No. 14 Tritons Drop First Game to Open Sunday Twin Bill; Finale Suspended Until Monday at 11 a.m.
LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 14 University of California San Diego baseball team couldn't build on a 2-0 first-inning lead and ultimately surrendered its first game of the 2019 season, 5-2, to No. 27 Cal State Monterey Bay Sunday at Triton Ballpark to begin a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) doubleheader.
The seven-inning series finale was suspended in the top of the fourth with the Tritons leading 1-0, but the Otters with men at first and second and nobody out. UC San Diego had swept Saturday's twin bill, both nine-inning contests, by scores of 5-1 and 4-3, walking off in the nightcap with two runs in the ninth.
UC San Diego drops to 7-1 overall and 2-1 in the CCAA. The Tritons began the day at 7-0 for the first time in their NCAA Division II history, since 2001. The win moved CSUMB to 3-6 overall and 1-2 in league play. The two clubs shared the top spot in the final standings a year ago, each at 30-14, the Otters coming away with the regular-season banner through tiebreaker rules. The Tritons are the CCAA head coaches' preseason favorites, with CSUMB picked to place third.
Sunday's second game will be resumed at 11 a.m. (pushed back from 10 a.m.) on Monday morning, Feb. 18, from exactly where it left off. Parking and admission at Triton Ballpark on East Campus in La Jolla will be free, as will the broadcast on UCSDtritons.tv. Live stats are here, or follow on Twitter (@UCSDbsb).
The Tritons' initial turn at the plate began with an eight-pitch walk to redshirt junior leftfielder Keenan Brigman, in the leadoff spot for the first time this year. Redshirt senior third baseman Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) followed by dropping an RBI double right in front of diving leftfielder Nicholas Napoli toward the gap in left center. Brigman's baserunning was stellar as he was able to come all the way around.
Back-to-back walks loaded the bases for Saturday night's walk-off hero, R.J. Prince, and the senior rightfielder lifted a sacrifice fly to left, but that was all they got.
CSUMB wasted no time getting both of those runs back, in its very next frame. Senior right-hander Jonah Dipoto, who had entered to start the inning, got two quick groundouts on five pitches, but the Otters then produced four straight two-out singles, the latter two scoring runs to make matters level again at 2-2.
A three-run fourth gave the visitors their largest lead of the entire weekend, with the Tritons unable to recover, managing just five hits, including none in the sixth, seventh or eighth.
The Tritons still brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth. Shay Whitcomb's grounder died in front of the charging third baseman for a leadoff infield single. Two flyouts led into a Brandon Stewart walk, but Brigman's groundout ended the game.
Sophomore Noah Conlon earned just his second start on the mound for UC San Diego, but was only scheduled for one inning as he continues to get himself back into game shape after only being able to make five pitching appearances in 2018 due to injury. Conlon worked around a one-out single in his frame, with a strikeout. Dipoto (2-1) took his first loss, allowing five runs, four of them earned, over three complete.
The true freshman tandem of right-hander Michael Mitchell (2.2) and left-hander Lonnie Morris (2.1) were truly impressive in keeping UC San Diego in the contest, combining for 5.0 shutout innings with two hits against and one strikeout apiece.
Mitchell induced a clutch 4-6-3 double play to get out of the fifth with Otters at the corners through a one-out walk and a single. In the sixth, Eliopulos the senior called off Mitchell the freshman on a Nicholas Napoli bunt toward the mound, making a spectacular play barehanded with the pickup and fluid throw for the second out.
Eliopulos wound up 2-for-4 with a double, run and RBI. Stewart and Nick Kitzmann each walked twice.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 38-21, including 35-18 in league matchups ... Alex Eliopulos started his 84th straight game, all at third base ... Nick Kitzmann started in the cleanup spot of the order for the first time as a college player ... True freshmen Michael Fuhrman and Ryan McNally were in the lineup together for the first time, each drawing their second start ... Keenan Brigman last batted leadoff in the 2018 season finale against Southern New Hampshire in Cary, N.C. ... Noah Conlon last appeared in a game as a pinch-runner at CSUMB last March 26, but his last pitching appearance came last March 11 ... Conlon's previous starting assignment was in his college debut on Feb. 11, 2018, when he went 5.0 innings for his first career win ... Blake Baumgartner walked in four consecutive plate appearances between his last three trips Saturday night and his initial one on Sunday ... The Otters' 12 hits were a season high for a Triton opponent.
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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