No. 14 UC San Diego Edged in Finale by No. 27 CSUMB to Settle for Series Split
LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 14 University of California San Diego baseball team dropped the seven-inning finale when it concluded on Monday afternoon at Triton Ballpark, 4-2, settling for a four-game split against No. 27 Cal State Monterey Bay.
With the result, UC San Diego fell to 7-2 overall and 2-2 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). CSUMB improved to 4-6 overall and an identical 2-2 in league play, having rallied back from losing the first two games of the weekend. The Tritons 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. They lost 5-2 on Sunday.
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 third.
The seven-inning game was suspended by rain on Sunday, with Otters at first and second and nobody out in the top of the fourth in a 1-0 game in favor of UC San Diego. It was resumed finally at 11:19 a.m. Monday after some final field prep challenges.
Kyle Lucke took over for Triton starter Ted Stuka (0-1), and walked his first batter, Kyle Czaplak, to load the bases. The fourth-year senior right-hander then put called third strikes over on successive batters. A pair of left-handed hitters kept him from squirming out of the jam, however, as Reed Oster slapped an 0-1 pitch just inside the left field line for a two-run double, and Kyle Guerra dropped a two-run single into left.
UC San Diego got one of those runs back in the fifth and threatened for more, and then brought the winning run to the plate in the seventh, but could not find the clutch hit.
The Tritons had opened the scoring with a single second-inning tally before the rain struck on Sunday. Redshirt junior leftfielder Steven Schuknecht led off by lining a double into the gap in right center. With men at the corners and one away, junior designated hitter Tyler Leskiw pulled an RBI single through the right side.
UC San Diego went on to load the bases still with only one away, but an infield popout and fielder's choice groundout limited the damage for the visitors.
The Tritons used another leadoff double, this one from redshirt sophomore centerfielder Brandon Stewart, to generate their only other run. They filled the bags again, with nobody out, but could only manage a Blake Baumgartner sacrifice fly.
Keenan Brigman led off the seventh by drawing a five-pitch walk. After a pitching change, redshirt senior third baseman Alex Eliopulos put a charge into one to the opposite field, but Guerra potentially saved a big inning and thus the game with a full-stretch diving grab toward the line in left. Baumgartner also then flew out, but Schuknecht's single to right kept hopes alive of a second walk-off victory in the series.
Unfortunately for the home side, it was not to be in a contest, and frankly two days, filled with missed scoring opportunities. A fielder's choice groundout ended the game.
Schuknecht and Leskiw were each 2-for-3, among the Tritons' seven hits. They only allowed four. Lucke wound up going the final 4.0 frames and struck out three. He registered outs on the next eight Otters after Guerra's two-run single. Stuka made a stellar play in the third, knocking a comebacker down that bounded toward first base, retrieving it and flipping backhanded to Baumgartner for the first out.
Kale Leach (1-0) picked up the winning decision in relief for CSUMB, and Sean McClure his first save after notching the last three outs. Four Otter arms were unable to retire the Tritons in order over the seven innings.
The Tritons head right into another challenging four-game series against a nationally-ranked foe in No. 16 Cal Poly Pomona. The split-venue set will begin with primetime affairs at Scolinos Field in Pomona, both at 6 p.m., on Thursday and Friday, before shifting to La Jolla for a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday. The teams have combined for the last four Division II West Region trophies, with the Broncos winners in 2015 and 2016 ahead of UC San Diego's back-to-back championships the past two years.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 38-22, including 35-19 in league matchups ... Alex Eliopulos started his 85th straight game, all at third base ... Ted Stuka, who pitched the first three innings on Sunday, earned his first collegiate starting assignment after 22 career relief appearances ... UC San Diego scored first in all four games of the series, in either the first or second inning ... The Tritons are now 10-1 with eight series splits to begin the CCAA season since joining the league in 2001.
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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