LA JOLLA, Calif. - The 39th-ranked UC San Diego baseball team split a non-conference doubleheader with California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) rival Cal State L.A. Saturday at Triton Ballpark.
The Golden Eagles had three pitchers combine on a two-hit shutout in the opener, 2-0. UCSD tallied runs in seven of eight frames to earn a 9-3 victory in the nightcap. Both games were regulation nine-inning contests.
With the results, UCSD moved to 3-1, while the Golden Eagles, the reigning CCAA tournament champions, are now 1-4.
The Tritons rallied from an early 3-0 deficit in the second game after Cal State L.A. struck for three unearned runs in the first inning. UCSD then blanked the Golden Eagles over the remaining eight frames.
In the opener, CSULA tallied single runs in the second and fifth and made them hold up behind three pitchers.
UCSD managed just a pair of infield singles in the contest, both in innings in which the Tritons generated legitimate threats, only to be denied.
Senior leftfielder Justin Rahn chopped an infield single toward the second-base bag to load the bases after two walks and two outs were made in the fourth, with second baseman Rodrigo Martinez having no play anywhere, but CSULA sophomore right-hander Brandon Quintero (1-1) got Brett Levy swinging to maintain a 1-0 edge.
Sophomore third baseman Troy Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS) then found a spot on the right side of the CSULA infield for a one-out single in the eighth. Junior second baseman Erik Lewis followed and drew a walk, but freshman right-hander Greg Humbert produced a flyout and a called third strike to get out of it. Senior designated hitter Nick La Face provided the fly ball, a shot deep to center that seemed destined for a game-tying two-run double, only for junior Golden Eagle centerfielder Trent Zaks to track back and make a tough grab while going to ground.
The game’s first run came when Martinez dumped an RBI single down the left field line in the second. The visitors added a score in the fifth when star catcher Cody Doyle grounded into a 4-6-3 double play with teammates at the corners.
Justin Donatella (0-1) drew his first start on the mound of 2014. The sophomore right-hander retired seven in a row at one point after allowing the unearned run in the second. He went a career-long 4.2 innings with two runs allowed, one earned, on five hits and three walks. Donatella struck out a pair.
Sophomore left-hander Eric Moersen, a transfer from the University of Utah, made his Triton debut and needed just one pitch to end the fifth in relief of Donatella. Junior left-hander Trevor Scott was impressive from there with four three-hit, shutout frames. He struck out one.
Jack Larsen made his collegiate debut as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. Fellow freshman outfielder Christian Leung made a difficult catch looking straight up at the sun in right with a runner at first and nobody out in the sixth. Scott then induced a second double play out of CSULA in the game, this one of the 6-4-3 variety on Martinez.
Marcos Casillas threw the ninth for Cal State L.A. for his first save.
In the nightcap, UCSD answered three unearned runs by Cal State L.A. in the top of the first, with two scores of its own in the bottom half. The Tritons tied it with a single run in the fourth and took its first lead of the day, for good, in the fifth.
All three Golden Eagle runs were unearned due to a first-inning error, with two by the Tritons in the game and four on the day in an uncharacteristically suspect defensive performance.
UCSD did, however, take advantage of numerous Cal State L.A. miscues to the tune of four unearned runs of its own. The Golden Eagles made two errors in the field and saw four pitchers compile nine walks, three hit-by-pitches and five wild pitches. Two CSULA catchers had four passed balls between them.
Senior right-hander Blake Fassler (2-0) earned his second win in as many starts in 2014, settling down after the three unearned runs in the first with four shutout frames. He allowed two walks for the first time in his 11th start in a Triton uniform.
Sophomore right-hander Adrian Orozco (Chula Vista/Otay Ranch HS) went the next three innings with just two singles against him. Senior right-hander Scott Zeman struck out the Golden Eagles in order in the ninth with nine of 10 pitches strikes to shut the door. All three Triton hurlers in game two wound up with three punch-outs.
Cruz was 3-for-5 with a double, hit-by-pitch, three runs scored, one RBI and one steal. He reached base five times. Lewis and Mann added two hits apiece. Lewis knocked in two. Rahn and fellow senior Spencer Frazier each scored twice.
Cruz came all the way around for what proved to be the winning run as he singled through the left side, advanced to second as Frazier worked a nine-pitch walk, to third on a passed ball, and home on Lewis’ sacrifice fly.
Despite the three errors, UCSD had several defensive gems as well. Rahn gathered a Zaks single down the left field line in the third, spun and fired on the fly to Lewis to thwart his attempt to extend to a double. True freshman Tyler Howsley, making his first collegiate start at shortstop, then made a diving stop toward the hole on a grounder by Kyle Peralta, but his throw to first wasn’t in time. Corbin Wirta saved at least one run with a diving stab on a Doyle liner to center that ended the fourth.
UCSD and Cal State L.A. conclude their non-conference series with a single rubber game at Reeder Field in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 9. First pitch is at 2 p.m.