Photo by: Derrick Tuskan
Sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb is 8-for-17 in the last four games with five doubles and a home run.

No. 10 UC San Diego Rallies Past Cal State San Marcos Late for Eighth Straight, 5-4

UC San Diego

LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 10 University of California San Diego got run-scoring extra-base hits from a pair of its stars to turn a 4-3 eighth-inning deficit into a 5-4 victory over city rival Cal State San Marcos in California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) baseball action Friday night at Triton Ballpark.

A now-season-best eighth win in a row has vaulted second-place UC San Diego to 15-4 overall and 10-4 in the CCAA. Cal State San Marcos has dropped five straight and nine of 10, and is currently 11-13 overall and 7-11 in league play. The Tritons had won the opener of the series, 7-3, at home on Thursday night.

The home eighth began with the Tritons having just relinquished a 3-2 edge in the top half through the interesting circumstance of giving up three bunt singles. Redshirt sophomore outfielder Brandon Stewart found the hole between the third baseman and shortstop for a leadoff single to stir the rally. True freshman second baseman Ryan McNally put down the sacrifice, before sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb belted an opposite-field RBI double into the gap in right center to level matters again at 4-4. Two pitches later, redshirt senior third baseman Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS), mired in an 0-for-10 stretch, smoked an RBI triple, also to the opposite field, this one to left center. It was just his second triple as a Triton.

Senior right-hander Kyle Lucke (2-0) came back out for the ninth, which still had some drama. The first two outs were simple, with a flyout and a swinging strikeout. But as baseball would have it, 27 outs are necessary. Griffin Teisher dropped a single in front of new centerfielder Christopher Schasteen, and then Näshéa Diggs drew a walk. Lucke finally got Joseph Bahna to ground one to Eliopulos at third, who still had a tough play to make, and the preseason All-American made it, giving Lucke the win.

UC San Diego starter Luke Mattson went a season-long 6.2 strong innings and allowed two runs on five hits and one walk. The junior right-hander struck out four and did not factor in the decision. Lucke handled 2.1 frames of relief. He also surrendered two runs on five hits and a walk, fanning a pair.

The visitors took their first lead of the series with a single tally in the second, courtesy of a leadoff home run pulled over the wall in right center by senior first baseman Grant Buck. It was his team-leading fourth, and just the second home run against the Tritons all year, both solo shots off Mattson at home.

Redshirt sophomore catcher Aaron Kim answered on behalf of his Tritons with a leadoff blast of his own, in the fourth for his team-best fifth. UC San Diego went ahead in that same frame, as Alex Athanacio doubled into the left field corner with one gone and moved to third on a wild pitch as Stewart swung through for an 0-2 count. Stewart then went to the opposite field down the right field line for a clutch sacrifice fly.

Stewart nearly made a spectacular catch in the fifth to rob Jake Rico of a two-out RBI double, but he sprinted into the gap in right center and was just unable to make the grab diving headfirst as CSUSM tied the game after Marcus Wilhite's one-out double.

UC San Diego went right back in front in the bottom half. Whitcomb doubled down the left field line for starters. A one-out walk and hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, and Kim's first-pitch sacrifice fly, also to the opposite field in right, made it 3-2 Tritons.

The hosts missed opportunities to be a lot more comfortable, proceeding to load the bases again still in the fifth and again in the seventh, but strikeouts ended each frame. The Cougars actually walked Kim intentionally in that seventh to fill the bags, with just one away, before back-to-back strikeouts by Troy Lamparello (0-2).

The visitor eighth was purely bizarre. Teisher singled to the opposite field to left with the first pitch of the inning off Lucke. Diggs laid down a perfect sacrifice that went for the first of three bunt singles. Bahna put down an actual sacrifice to move both Cougars into scoring position. That all happened on three tosses. Cabot Van Til singled via bunt to knock in Teisher for a tie game. Lucke got a popout for the second out, but Danny Johnson's RBI bunt single suddenly gave CSUSM a 4-3 edge. It wouldn't hold.

Whitcomb finished 3-for-5 with the two doubles, two runs and one RBI. Kim was 1-for-2 with his home run, walk, sacrifice fly, run and two RBI. Athanacio went 2-for-4 with two doubles and a run. Baumgartner was 2-for-3 with a double and two walks.

UC San Diego has a day off from competition as winter quarter final exams begin Saturday. The Tritons will conclude their series with Cal State San Marcos on Sunday, March 17, as it shifts slightly north to San Marcos for a noon doubleheader at CSUSM Baseball Field. Parking and admission are free, with a live stream available.

Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 14-3, and has won 10 straight meetings since the 2017 season, including seven in a row at home ... Alex Eliopulos started his 95th straight game, all at third base ... Luke Mattson drew his sixth start as a Triton on the mound ... Alex Athanacio started in left field for the first time as a Triton, in the slight injury absence of Keenan Brigman ... Nick Kitzmann was also unavailable due to injury, for the fourth straight game ... Athanacio's first two-double effort as a Triton gives him five on the year ... With two doubles for a second straight game, Shay Whitcomb has a team-leading eight in 2019 and 20 for his college career ... Blake Baumgartner's first-inning double was his fifth of the season and 15th of his career ... Aaron Kim extended his single-season high to five home runs, now with seven for his career, with six at Triton Ballpark ... The Tritons matched their 2019 high of five doubles, and finished with a season-high seven extra-base hits ... UC San Diego is 14-2 at home ... The current eight-game win streak supplants the seven-gamer the Tritons opened this season with.

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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