Photo by: Derrick Tuskan
Sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb had one of four Triton hits.

No. 14 UC San Diego Has Bats Silenced in Opener at No. 16 Cal Poly Pomona

UC San Diego

POMONA, Calif. - Fourteenth-ranked University of California San Diego mustered minimal offense on a cold Thursday night and fell to No. 16 Cal Poly Pomona, 4-1, in the opener of a four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) baseball series at Scolinos Field.

With a third straight defeat, UC San Diego drops to 7-3 overall and 2-3 in the CCAA. Cal Poly Pomona, a winner of five straight, improves to 7-4 overall and a still-perfect 5-0 in league play.

The teams have split the last four NCAA Division II West Region trophies, with the Broncos champions in 2015 and 2016 ahead of UC San Diego's titles the past two years. The Tritons are the CCAA preseason favorites, with CPP right behind in second.

The first three half-innings featured just a single in each, before a four-pitch leadoff walk to sophomore shortstop Drew Cowley in the home second. Senior left-hander Preston Mott rallied to get flyouts to centerfielder Brandon Stewart on consecutive pitches, before putting a called third strike on Logan Gopperton.

CPP starter Troy Bethell followed suit and issued a free pass on five tosses to Ryan McNally to open the third. Stewart got his first sacrifice of the season down, but a flyout and a strikeout left the freshman second baseman stranded at second.

Consecutive one-out singles with a wild pitch in between, accounted for the game's first run as Nic Hernandez slid one through the right side to score Nick Peifer. Mott then got Ryon Knowles to ground one straight to shortstop Shay Whitcomb behind second base, whose skipped throw was picked out expertly by Blake Baumgartner to complete the inning-ending double play.

The fourth began promisingly again for UC San Diego, via infield error and a single that Whitcomb dropped into left center between the two Bronco outfielders. A deep flyout advanced Baumgartner to third, but two strikeouts around a two-out walk to load the bases, kept the Tritons trailing by a 1-0 margin.

With runners at the corners following two singles around a failed bunt, the Broncos doubled their advantage in the fourth through a Patrick Vizcaino sacrifice fly to right.

Stewart led off the fifth by roping a triple deep to left center as Hernandez crashed into the fence. It looked momentarily like the Tritons may still fail to turn that into their first run, as Bethell buckled down for consecutive strikeouts, but as luck would have it, a wild pitch into the dirt plated Stewart for 2-1.

Unfortunately, CPP got that run right back thanks to a first-pitch double to left at the top of the order by Peifer in the home half. After Mott got the dangerous Hernandez to wave through a third strike, Knowles blooped an RBI single to center, and was thrown out trying to extend at second.

Pinch-hitter Steven Schuknecht opened the seventh with a six-pitch walk, but three flyouts kept him there. The last was scalded by Keenan Brigman to the opposite field, but Cesar Lopez made a tough catch sprinting toward the line.

Cal Poly Pomona loaded the bases in the seventh, all after two flyouts, and added a fourth run via wild pitch.

UC San Diego staged a rally in the eighth and loaded the bases on two walks and a hit-by-pitch. Another Schuknecht walk made it 4-2, but a groundout kept the damage at a minimum.

The Broncos tacked on one more on a two-out RBI double by Angel Ortiz in the eighth, ahead of a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 ninth by Darin May for his third save.

Mott (1-1) went 5.0 innings and allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks, striking out three. Fellow senior Jonah Dipoto took over and delivered the Tritons' only 1-2-3 inning in the sixth on a flyout, groundout and strikeout.

Making his first start as a Bronco, Bethell went 4.2 innings and gave up one run on four hits and three walks. The junior left-hander struck out eight. Jeremy Taylor (2-0) earned the winning decision. Peifer was 3-for-5 with two doubles and three runs.

Schuknecht remained in the game in left field after his pinch-hit walk, and began the home seventh with a real nice grab down the line.

The Tritons remain in Pomona and await the second game of their series with the Broncos, again in primetime, on Friday, Feb. 22. First pitch at Scolinos Field is 6 p.m.

Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 48-38, including 30-24 over the last 54 meetings since 2009 ... Alex Eliopulos started his 86th straight game, all at third base ... Keenan Brigman batted in the third spot for the first time as a college player ... Brigman's first-inning single extended his reached-base streak to 10 straight games to begin the year, and his hit streak to six ... Junior transfer Alex Athanacio drew his first start as a Triton ... Preston Mott drew his fourth start of 2019 and 47th of his four-year career, pulling him into a three-way tie for fourth in at least the program's Division II history, with Tim Shibuya and Trevor Decker ... Stewart's triple in the fifth was the third of his college career, as he became the first Triton in 2019 to complete a season cycle, now with two doubles, one triple and one home run ... UC San Diego has lost three straight games for the first time since April 28-29, 2017, all against Cal State LA ... The start of the contest was pushed back an hour due to scattered rain throughout the afternoon, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ... Temperature at first pitch was 41 degrees.</;p>

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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