Photo by: Derrick Tuskan
Aaron Kim belted a two-run home run and a grand slam in his first two at-bats Friday.

No. 14 UC San Diego Batters Sonoma State to Begin Doubleheader, Walks Off in 10th to Complete Sweep

UC San Diego

LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 14 University of California San Diego used offense in the first game and pitching in the second to sweep Sonoma State University in a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) baseball doubleheader Friday at Triton Ballpark. Game scores were 14-4 and 1-0 in 10 innings.

With the results, UC San Diego improved to 11-4 overall and 6-4 in the CCAA. The Tritons are now winners of four straight after a four-game losing skid. They managed just six runs in those four defeats, but have now surrendered only five earned runs during this current four-game stretch over 35 innings for a 1.29 ERA. Sonoma State dropped to 4-6 overall and 3-4 in league play.

The four-game series was supposed to simply start with a primetime Friday opener, but the schedule was adjusted due to expected adverse weather, with Friday becoming a twin bill. Even so, the nightcap was supposed to be of the shortened seven-inning variety, but the pitchers' duel went into extra frames and ended in 10.

UC San Diego produced season highs of 14 runs and 15 hits in the opener, trotting out to an 8-1 advantage through two frames due solely to three long home runs, two of them by redshirt sophomore catcher Aaron Kim (Orange/Orange Lutheran HS).

In the second game, right-handers Luke Mattson, Kyle Lucke and Jonah Dipoto combined on a three-hit shutout, and redshirt sophomore first baseman Blake Baumgartner finally walked it off through a one-out, opposite-field single down the right field line with the bases loaded in the 10th for the only run of the contest.

UC San Diego and Sonoma State hope to play the third game of the series on Saturday, March 2, with first pitch pushed back from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Please stay tuned to and Twitter (@UCSDbsb, @UCSDtritons) for further updates.

Game One - No. 14 UCSD 14, SSU 4
UC San Diego found itself trailing just four pitches in, as Anthony Clyma, who had begun the day 1-for-20 with no extra-base hits, belted a triple that centerfielder Brandon Stewart was unable to track down. John Abate took the next offering through the right side of the infield off the glove of Keenan Brigman, for an RBI single and 1-0.

The Tritons wasted no time getting that run right back, however, and put up four runs in both the first and second frames. Stewart led things off with a single through the left side, just ahead of a long home run to right by redshirt senior third baseman Alex Elipoulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) with the count at 3-1. It was his second of the year. With one gone, redshirt junior leftfielder Steven Schuknecht managed an infield single, and facing an 0-2 hole, Kim blasted another two-run shot out to left center.

A Stewart single led off the second as well as the Tritons had batted around in the first. Eliopulos lined out hard to center, but Baumgartner singled to the opposite field in right center, and Schuknecht walked to load the bases. That brought out legendary Sonoma State head coach John Goelz, now in his 34th season with over 1000 career wins. The slight delay didn't distract Kim any, and with a hopeful and playful shout of, "Hit a home run!," coming from his dugout, he jumped all over the first pitch of his at-bat. The grand slam well over the left field wall made it a sudden, daunting 8-1 bulge.

UC San Diego threatened in the third and fourth but did not score, even after a double to right center by Schuknecht to lead off the latter frame on an 0-2 toss. The Tritons did then post two more crooked numbers over the remainder in the form of a pair of three-run frames in the fifth and eighth. Alex Athanacio and Shay Whitcomb led off the fifth with back-to-back singles, and Stewart laid down the sacrifice. The Seawolves signaled for the intentional walk on Eliopulos. The ploy worked momentarily as Baumgartner went down on strikes, but a passed ball plated Athanacio, and Schuknecht pulled a two-run single to right.

All three runs in the eighth were unearned thanks to two credited errors, though the visitors made one other mental mistake that went down as an infield single for Baumgartner after a leadoff hit-by-pitch to Eliopulos. As senior pinch-hitter Christopher Schasteen's grounder was thrown away by the new pitcher, Eliopulos scored. With one away, Michael Fuhrman's right-sided groundout gave the true freshman his first collegiate RBI. The other error allowed the final run to come across.

Senior left-hander Preston Mott (2-1) allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks over 5.0 innings. He struck out seven to equal his season high. True freshman Michael Mitchell was incredibly impressive in relief, making sure no other Triton arms had to be used in the series opener. The Santa Cruz product out of well-regarded Bellarmine College Prep went the final four frames in shutout fashion, giving up just two hits, both singles, and a walk while also matching his season high of five strikeouts.

Mott needed just eight pitches for his only perfect inning in the fourth. Mitchell struck out the side in order, all swinging, in the eighth.

Kim finished 3-for-4 with the two home runs, two runs and career-high six RBI. Schuknecht reached base safely in all four plate appearances, going 3-for-3 with a double, walk, two runs and two RBI. Eliopulos was 2-for-3 with his home run, double, a hit-by-pitch, walk, three runs and two RBI. Roommates Stewart and Baumgartner added two hits and two runs apiece around him at the top of the Triton order.

The Nos. 1-5 batters in UC San Diego's starting lineup combined to go 12-for-19 (.632) with 11 of the 14 runs and 10 RBI. They slugged at a hefty 1.211 rate.

Schasteen remained in the game in center field and made a spectacular catch for the second out in the ninth, robbing pinch-hitter Ricky Pato of extra bases as he sprinted toward the gap in right center and dove headfirst for a ball tailing away from him.

Game Two - No. 14 UCSD 1, SSU 0 (10)
The nightcap obviously featured great pitching as the score would indicate, but also had several key defensive plays by both teams helping to extend the contest.

The home 10th began with back-to-back hit-by-pitches as Whitcomb wore the first offering by Tyson Canfield (1-2), brilliant to that point for four full frames in relief of effective starter Robert Towne, who actually lowered his 0.90 ERA coming in. Nick Kitzmann was trying to bunt Whitcomb over, but fouled off his first attempt, and was plunked with the second throw. Stewart tried to bunt, and got it down. First baseman Kory Brown was unable to pick it up, loading the bases.

Canfield survived momentarily as Eliopulos hit a comebacker and the senior righ-hander flipped to his catcher for the first out. But Baumgartner drove a 1-1 pitch down the right field line, completely out of the reach of Abate, to end the drama.

Mattson battled through the first five shutout frames, allowing just a one-out double in the fourth, two walks and a hit-by-pitch. He struck out four. Lucke took over for the next 4.0 innings, with two singles against him, no walks, and two strikeouts. Fellow fourth-year senior Dipoto (3-1) ducked around a one-out walk and two-out hit-by-pitch with two strikeouts and a lineout in the 10th to earn his third win.

Mattson pulled a rabbit out of a hat in the second. The Seawolves loaded the bases with nobody out. Mattson actually won a remarkable 11-pitch battle including seven foul balls with Brown for starters via swinging strikeout, but that 11th offering skipped in the dirt and got away from Kitzmann for a wild pitch. The Golden West College transfer proceeded to walk the next two batters, before getting Josh Lenney swinging. Then on a 1-2 pitch, he got San Marcos product James Harwell to come right back to him for a huge 1-2-3 double play.

Among those defensive gems, Schuknecht made an over-the-shoulder catch running toward the wall in left before going to ground for the first out of the eighth. More impressively, in the ninth after a leadoff single by Zack Guardino, Baumgartner expertly handled the second, short hop of a chopper by Brown, back-handed no less, before not just getting the first out of the frame, but retiring the lead runner in Guardino. Had he missed the pick, the game result may very well have been different.

Earlier, Mattson pounced off the mound for a bare-handed pickup of an Abate grounder before firing to Baumgartner, with a nice stretch, to cap the 1-2-3 third.

Schuknecht almost ended it in the eighth. With Eliopulos at second through a sharp opposite-field single to left with one away and his first stolen base, Schuknecht grounded one down the first base line, with Brown saving the game by going down to his left to glove it, before flipping to Canfield to take the contest into the ninth.

Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 43-33 ... Alex Eliopulos started his 90th and 91st straight games, all at third base ... Brandon Stewart had a sacrifice hit in each game to give him a team-best three on the year after leading the Tritons with 11 in 2018 ... Among the attendees was former four-year Triton (2014-17) and 2017 UC San Diego graduate (biochemistry and cell biology) Justin Flatt, who completed his graduate program at Georgetown last year ... Also present was Jerry Dipoto, the father of Jonah Dipoto and general manager of the Seattle Mariners, on hand to watch his son earn the game-two winning decision ... Game One: Steven Schuknecht was back in the lineup in left field and the cleanup spot after missing last Saturday's doubleheader due to personal reasons ... Preston Mott drew his fifth start of 2019 and 48th of his four-year career, putting him alone in fourth for at least the program's Division II history, ahead of Tim Shibuya and Trevor Decker ... The winning decision was the milestone 20th of Mott's career, now with a personal record of 20-10 ... Eliopulos' home run was the 21st of his Triton career ... Aaron Kim now has a single-season high already of three home runs, and five for his career, with four at Triton Ballpark ... Kim's grand slam marked the Tritons' 10th home run as a team in 2019, tied for second in the CCAA ... UC San Diego had hit a remarkable eight grand slams in 2018, but today's was the first of Kim's college career ... The Tritons reached double figures in runs for the first time this year ... Game Two: Luke Mattson earned his fifth start on the mound as a Triton ... Catcher Nick Kitzmann produced his first caught stealing of 2019 in the first ... UC San Diego has two walk-off hits already in 2019, the other a two-run double, also to the opposite field down the right field line with one out to cap a home doubleheader sweep, by senior R.J. Prince on Feb. 16 ... The Tritons are 2-0 in extra innings, and have swept four twin bills thus far in 2019.

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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