No. 8 UC San Diego Drops Second Straight Series Opener, 7-5, at Cal State Dominguez Hills
CARSON, Calif. - The eighth-ranked University of California San Diego baseball team gave up four runs in the opening frame and could not recover, losing to host Cal State Dominguez Hills, 7-5, in the opener of a four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series Friday afternoon at Toro Field.
With a second successive series-opening defeat in which it did not look very good, UC San Diego dropped to 28-10 overall and 23-10 in the CCAA. Eleventh-place Cal State Dominguez Hills moved to 16-27 overall and 15-26 in league play.
The Tritons remain narrowly ahead of Cal State Monterey Bay and San Francisco State in the conference standings. Both the Otters and Gators also lost road decisions later Friday, with second-place CSUMB by an identical 7-5 margin at last-place Cal State San Bernardino. Still in control of its own fate and already having clinched a sixth successive postseason berth, UC San Diego needs to go 4-3 over its final seven games to earn its first CCAA regular-season title since 2012.
The home side struck first after a 1-2-3 top half, as Jose Jimenez pulled a first-pitch double inside the third base line with one away, and junior slugger Pierson Loska, the CCAA's RBI leader, slapped an 0-2 offering to the opposite field inside the right field line for a double of his own. It was the Cypress College transfer's 57th run batted in. Two wild pitches around Ted Stuka's first strikeout and walk, made it a 2-0 advantage for the Toros. After a second base on balls, Aaron Greenfield lifted an opposite-field, two-run triple into the gap and to the wall in right center.
The Tritons loaded the bases, all with two away, in the second. Freshman second baseman Michael Fuhrman singled via hot shot that starting pitcher Tristan Garnett couldn't quite handle up the middle. Junior leftfielder Alex Athanacio dropped a single in front of the second baseman who lost the ball in the sun, and redshirt freshman designated hitter Logan White, Jr., was plunked by the first pitch of his at-bat. Athanacio had fouled off four 3-2 offerings, and five tosses in all. Garnett bounced back to get senior centerfielder Christopher Schasteen swinging, however, to end it.
Cal State Dominguez Hills produced an ugly tally in the second. Leadoff man Kai Gomez singled through the right side, moved to second on a Stuka pitch that skipped in the dirt, moved to third as catcher Aaron Kim fired wide of second base, and in fact came all the way around to score as Kim's throw got through Schasteen in center. A stolen base was credited to Gomez, and two errors against the Tritons.
UC San Diego pulled one back in the third. Senior rightfielder R.J. Prince drew a five-pitch walk to lead off, went to second on Alex Eliopulos' opposite-field single to left with one away, to third on Garnett's first wild pitch, and scored on Blake Baumgartner's RBI groundout. Eliopulos was stranded at third.
The Toros extended to a five-run bulge again in the fourth as Gomez doubled inside the left field line with two gone, and Jimenez tripled to the opposite field in right. Stuka got Loska waving to keep the damage at a single tally and the deficit at 6-1.
It was 7-1 after five. Stuka nearly ducked around a one-out triple, getting his ninth strikeout, but the Toros produced a solid two-out RBI single to left center. Stuka notched his third strikeout of the frame and 10th of the game with men at the corners.
Back-to-back six-pitch walks at the top of the order, from new pitcher Connor Dreyer, began the eighth and led to the Tritons' second run, as Eliopulos' right-sided groundout moved the runners over and Baumgartner produced an infield RBI single. The ball actually took a bad hop in the dirt and hit shortstop Angel Estrada in the neck. Senior pinch-hitter Steven Schuknecht then expertly worked an eight-pitch base on balls, fouling off a couple of two-strike offerings, to load the bases.
Fuhrman chopped an 0-2 pitch to the opposite field, over the first baseman's head and just off the lip of the grass, to score Shay Whitcomb and Baumgartner. Also pinch-hitting, senior Keenan Brigman then slapped a 1-2 toss, again to the opposite field, through the right side to pull within 7-5 and force a second pitching change. On his second pitch, Spencer Hereford induced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
UC San Diego was unable to cut any further into its deficit in the ninth, managing just a first-pitch comebacker on a bunt and two swinging strikeouts off Hereford, who picked up his first save.
Stuka (5-2) went 6.0 innings and allowed seven runs, six of them earned, on 10 hits and three walks. The junior right-hander struck out a career-high 11. He was his best in the third, breezing through a perfect eight-pitch frame on two swinging strikeouts around a first-pitch flyout. Stuka fanned cleanup man Joe Canepa swinging four times.
Freshman left-hander Lonnie Morris took over for a 1-2-3 seventh on six pitches, with two flyouts around a lineout into Whitcomb's glove at shortstop. He struck out the side, the first two looking, around a two-out single in the eighth.
Garnett (5-6) gave up one run on three hits, two walks, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch over his 7.0 frames. The sophomore left-hander struck out a season-high 10, and was perfect in the first, fourth, fifth and seventh. Garnett retired nine in a row leading up to Baumgartner's one-out walk in the sixth. Back-to-back strikeouts wiped that out.
UC San Diego and Cal State Dominguez Hills continue their series back at Toro Field in Carson on Saturday, April 27. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. on Senior Day for the home side. Junior right-hander Brandon Weed (7-0, 1.97) will start for the Tritons.
Triton Notes: Alex Eliopulos started his 114th straight game, all at third base ... UC San Diego head coach Eric Newman sent out the same lineup for the second straight game, with senior rightfielder R.J. Prince in the leadoff spot for the second time all year ... Redshirt freshman Logan White, Jr., earned a fourth start in a row as the designated hitter ... Senior centerfielder Christopher Schasteen drew his sixth start of the year and third in succession ... Ted Stuka drew his fifth mound start, marking his 10th appearance this season, and fourth straight start in a series opener ... Stuka is the second Triton to reach double-figure strikeouts in a game in 2019, after Preston Mott's career-high 12 on April 7 at Stanislaus State ... Blake Baumgartner's sixth-inning walk was his CCAA-leading 39th of the season ... The Tritons are now 27-4 in 2019 when scoring at least three runs ... Among the support on hand was former UC San Diego men's soccer standout Jeff Klein (1992-94), a member of the 1993 national championship squad, and his two young boys ... The Tritons are 8-6 on the road.
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 37 have earned prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.
Follow the Tritons
For complete coverage and information regarding UC San Diego Athletics, follow the Tritons online at UCSDtritons.com and through social media on Twitter (@UCSDtritons), Instagram (@ucsdtritons) and Facebook (UCSDtritons). For more information on UC San Diego Baseball, follow on Twitter (@UCSDbsb) and Instagram (@ucsd_baseball). Head coach Eric Newman is also on Twitter (@CoachEricNewman).