No. 7/1/8 Tritons Fall Flat in Series Opener at Cal State LA
LOS ANGELES - The No. 7/1/8 University of California San Diego baseball team was unable to get out of a nightmare six-run seventh that broke a 5-5 deadlock, and fell to Cal State LA, 11-5, in the opener of a four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series Thursday night at Reeder Field.
First-place UC San Diego dropped to 26-8 overall and 21-8 in the CCAA. Its five-game win streak at the start of the night was the longest current one in the league. Cal State LA improved to 17-21 overall and 16-18 in CCAA play.
The 11 runs were a season high against the nation's No. 2 pitching staff in terms of team earned run average, as the Tritons surrendered double-digit runs for the first time in 2019. Ten of them were earned.
With one gone in the first, sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb ripped his team-best 18th double of the year off the wall in left, on an 0-2 pitch. It was the 30th of his career, as the Newbury Park native remains second in the CCAA in that category. Back-to-back called third strikes left Whitcomb stranded at second.
Cal State LA then struck first with two walks around a pair of flyouts, and Spencer Sundahl sending a two-out, RBI single to right for a 1-0 edge.
In the second, freshman designated hitter Michael Fuhrman reached on a one-out error and made it over to second. The Golden Eagle third baseman, Nate Alam, was unable to find the handle on a foul pop-up by R.J. Prince with two gone and the count at 2-2. The senior rightfielder then took another ball, and with the count full, made Cal State LA pay by launching his first home run as a Triton over the wall in left center.
The inning began to unravel for senior right-hander Austin Nazabal from there, as he hit Brandon Stewart with an 0-1 offering, and after going up 1-2 on leadoff man Keenan Brigman, allowed an opposite-field RBI single to right center for 3-1.
The home second began again with a walk, followed by a double that bounced up against the wall in left by No. 8 hitter Anthony Moreno, and another base on balls to load the bags. Leadoff man Tyler Odekirk then stung a ball that senior third baseman Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) snared almost accidentally as he reached up from his crouched position. A hit-by-pitch on a 3-1 offering pulled Cal State LA back to 3-2.
Sophomore right-hander Noah Conlon took over and on his second pitch, Adam Gordon belted an opposite-field, ground-rule double that went over leftfielder Steven Schuknecht's head and bounced over the wall to give the home side the lead, 4-3. Conlon registered back-to-back strikeouts to keep the frame from exploding further.
The third opened with an Eliopulos single through the right side, a one-out wild pitch and an infield single by reigning CCAA Player of the Week Blake Baumgartner that put Tritons at the corners. A fielder's choice groundout off Fuhrman's bat tied the game.
Cal State LA retook a slim 5-4 edge in the home half with an unearned tally. Jordan Myrow was hit by Conlon with one away, moved to third on an infield error, and scored on Noe Garcia's infield single. The Golden Eagles loaded the bases and Gordon was ahead 3-1 in the count, but the Placentia product threw a strike past him before getting the senior rightfielder to bounce out unassisted to Baumgartner at first base.
The Tritons went right back to work and procured a hit-by-pitch and a first walk off of Nazabal to begin the fourth. A first-pitch single pulled through the left side by Brigman loaded the bases. Nazabal then somehow navigated the heart of the UC San Diego order, getting Whitcomb to swing through for the first out, Eliopulos to line out to shallow center as Myrow went down to ground to make the tough grab, and Kim to fly out sharply to left.
UC San Diego tied the contest one final time in the fifth as Fuhrman singled to the opposite field in right with one out, and with two away, took second, third and home on back-to-back-to-back wild pitches by Nazabal, who exited before the frame ended.
Conlon (0-2) produced the first perfect frame by either side in the fourth, through two flyouts around a swinging strikeout. He really settled in and followed that up with two more 1-2-3 innings, needing seven pitches in the fifth and just six in the sixth. Conlon ultimately retired 14 in a row going back to the third, with a Golden Eagle reaching via strikeout and wild pitch late in that frame.
Conlon was still the tough-luck loser on the night due to that big seventh. He made just four tosses to cruise to the first two outs on a first-pitch popout and three-pitch swinging strikeout. The 6-7-8-9 batters then all reached in succession, including a hit-by-pitch on a 1-2 offering. When all was said and done, the inning featured 11 Golden Eagle hitters, four hits, four walks, the one hit-by-pitch and three wild pitches.
Junior left-hander Ted Stuka lasted just 1.1 innings in his shortest stint of 2019 and allowed four runs on two hits, four walks, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch. He struck out none for the first time this season. Conlon went a career-long 5.1 frames and gave up five runs, four of them earned, on three hits, two walks, two hit-by-pitches and two wild pitches. Freshman Michael Mitchell finished up with 1.1 scoreless innings.
Prince was 1-for-2 with the home run, two hit-by-pitches, a run and two RBI. Fuhrman went 1-for-4 with two runs and one RBI. Brigman and Whitcomb had two hits apiece.
Nazabal, in just his second start, gave up five runs, two of them earned, on seven hits, one walk, two hit-by-pitches and four wild pitches in 4.2 frames, striking out six. Nick Moisant (3-5) was impressive, fanning 10 over 4.1 shutout, one-hit innings.
UC San Diego and Cal State LA continue their four-game set on Friday, April 19. First pitch at Reeder Field is again set for 6 p.m.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego is 7-5 on the road ... Alex Eliopulos started his 110th straight game, all at third base ... Ted Stuka drew his fourth start of the year and his career, and third in a row to open a series ... Stuka now has nine mound appearances in 2019 ... R.J. Prince's second-inning home run was UC San Diego's league-leading 28th ... The Tritons are now 25-2 in 2019 when scoring at least three runs, and 16-1 when they connect on a home run after a first such defeat ... UC San Diego last surrendered double-digit runs in a 12-7 loss at then-19th-ranked Cal State Monterey Bay on March 25, 2018, with 70 games played between such contests.
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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