No. 4 Tritons Edged by Cal Poly Pomona, 3-2, in CCAA Tournament Opener
STOCKTON, Calif. - Fourth-ranked University of California San Diego got out to a 2-0 lead through two solo blasts, but surrendered a 3-2 decision to Cal Poly Pomona in its opening game of the 2019 California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Tournament Wednesday afternoon at neutral-site Banner Island Ballpark.
In having its seven-game win streak snapped, top-seeded regular-season champion UC San Diego dropped to 35-11 overall. Sixth-seeded Cal Poly Pomona improved to 26-25 as a winner of four straight.
The Tritons fall into an elimination game at 11 a.m. on Thursday, May 9, against No. 5 seed San Francisco State, which lost to second-seeded Cal State Monterey Bay later Wednesday, 8-5.
The day had started pretty literally with a bang for UC San Diego, the designated home team. Shay Whitcomb, named late Tuesday as the CCAA Most Valuable Player as just a sophomore, needed two pitches to get himself accustomed, and took a 1-0 offering from Austin Isenhart out over the fence in left center for his eighth home run.
Ted Stuka took over for Noah Conlon to begin the sixth, and issued a walk followed by a first-pitch wild pitch to put the tying run immediately in scoring position. To his credit, the big junior right-hander kept it there. Freshman second baseman Michael Fuhrman made leaping grap of a soft liner for the first out, and Stuka then got leadoff man Ryon Knowles waving, and induced a first-pitch bounce-out to Fuhrman off the bat of dangerous senior Nic Hernandez.
UC San Diego doubled its advantage using the long ball again in the sixth, as senior rightfielder R.J. Prince put together a professional at-bat before going over the wall in right for an opposite-field shot, his fourth on the year. All four have come over the last 13 games, with Wednesday's his first of the opposite-field variety for the Tritons. Prince fouled off three offerings over the eight-pitch appearance.
Stuka found trouble again in the seventh as a groundout was followed by a six-pitch walk, single into center, and a wild pitch. Nick Peifer's single to right that Prince was only able to take on the extreme short hop, enabled Patrick Vizcaino to score from third with the Broncos' first run. With men at the corners, Drew Cowley hit a right-sided grounder that could have led to a double play, except Peifer was running on the play, turning it into an RBI groundout and creating a 2-2 deadlock.
CPP took the lead in the eighth. The nine-hole hitter, Logan Gopperton, drew a five-pitch walk, was sacrificed over by Knowles, and scooted to third on a wild pitch ahead of an intentional walk to Hernandez. It looked like Stuka had induced a huge inning-ending 6-4-3 double play ball off Brennan McKenzie's bat, but the junior first baseman was ruled safe at first, meaning Gopperton had scored the go-ahead run for 3-2.
The Tritons threatened through a leadoff infield single, sacrifice bunt and hit-by-pitch in the eighth, but a fielder's choice groundout cut down the lead runner at third, and a flyout ended the frame.
Conlon went 5.0 innings and allowed no runs on one hit and no walks. The sophomore right-hander struck out three. Conlon needed nine pitches in a perfect first with a popout, flyout and initial strikeout. The Placentia product also retired the Broncos in order in the third on a popout to Whitcomb, swinging strikeout and groundout, and again in the fourth. Only six tosses were necessary for another 1-2-3 frame in the fifth, through two flyouts and three-pitch swinging strikeout. He retired his last 10 batters.
Whitcomb was 2-for-3 with the home run, hit-by-pitch, run and RBI.
Stuka (5-3) went 4.0 frames with three runs against him on two hits, four walks, two hit-by-pitches and three wild pitches. He struck out three.
Isenhart (8-5), a senior left-hander, gave up two runs on four hits and one walk over 7.0 innings, striking out 10. He had a 1-2-3 third, fifth and seventh. Darin May turned away all three of the batters he faced in the ninth, two on strikes, for his eighth save.
Triton Notes: Alex Eliopulos started his 122nd straight game, all at third base ... Eliopulos, first baseman Blake Baumgartner and shortstop Shay Whitcomb are the only Tritons to start all 46 games in 2019 ... Senior rightfielder R.J. Prince was in the leadoff spot for the 10th straight game ... Noah Conlon drew his eighth mound start of the year and ninth of his college career ... The Tritons are 13-7 away from home ... Whitcomb's first-inning home run was the 13th of his career ... Prince's sixth-inning shot was UC San Diego's team-best 48th of the year ... Prince's eighth-inning sacrifice was his second ... The Tritons are now 24-3 when hitting a home run.
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.
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