STOCKTON, Calif. - The No. 21 University of California San Diego fell just one victory short in its pursuit of a record seventh California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championship title following a 12-5 loss to sixth-ranked top seed and defending champion Chico State Saturday at neutral-site Banner Island Ballpark.
Third-seeded UC San Diego had survived past three elimination games, including a 13-4 battering of the Wildcats in the first meeting between the sides on Saturday. That triggered the if-necessary, winner-take-all nightcap, but Chico State rode the incredible form of senior Dillon Kelley, who hit three home runs in the game and drove in six runs, to the successful defense of its crown. The 'Cats are thus double winners in 2017, having coasted to the regular-season banner.
UCSD was the designated home team in game two, with those distinctions flipped after the morning affair, and fell to 36-17 on the year. Chico State improved to 45-9 and 2-3 against the Tritons this season. The result snapped a run of seven successive triumphs for UCSD against its rival in CCAA tournament dates, going back to 2008.
UCSD will return to La Jolla on Sunday and await its NCAA Championship fate, with the 56-team field being unveiled later that same night at 7 p.m. PT. Though Chico State earns the CCAA's automatic qualifier, the Tritons are virtually assured of being one of the six squads chosen for the West Regional. They have been listed fourth in each of the first three official NCAA region polls. The selection show will be carried live on NCAA.com/live.
UCSD's own senior star, rightfielder Jack Larsen, shared Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors with Kelley in what was likely a rarity for the conference to recognize a player on the non-winning team with that award. It was wholly appropriate in this case, however, as the duo put on an absolute show all week in Stockton, Larsen producing five home runs and 13 RBI, while Kelley went for six home runs and 15 RBI.
Joining Larsen on the All-Tournament Team were fellow senior Troy Cruz, Kyle Goodbrand, and true freshman Chad Crosbie, who had a breakout first postseason tournament. Goodbrand, of course, took a no-hitter into the eighth inning Friday.
Kelley led off the second with his fourth home run of the tournament after arriving in Stockton with four on the season. Two singles and a successful sacrifice brought on Erik Amundson, who got a popup to himself for the second out, but then saw RJ Hassey get to him with a two-out, two-strike, two-run single to right. Hassey was thrown out trying to advance to second, but the damage was done at 3-0.
Chico's Grant Larson (1-2) went 5.0 tough innings with one run against him on five hits and one walk, and six strikeouts. Two strikeouts and a groundout got him through a perfect second. The Tritons' left-handed-hitting trio of Larsen, Tyler Durna and Alex Eliopulos were a combined 0-for-7 against the freshman left-hander.
The Tritons got on the board with a single tally in the third, but Chico State scored the next seven, capped by a Kelley grand slam in the sixth, for a 10-1 bulge. UCSD was never going to quit, and answered right back with a pinch-hit, three-run home run by Crosbie in the home half, but the Tritons could only muster one more from there, while Chico doubled that output, getting one final long ball in the ninth by Kelley. For Crosbie, it was his second collegiate home run, with the first one coming earlier in the day.
Triton Notes: UCSD is 29-18 at the CCAA Championship, making its 13th appearance and fourth straight ... The Tritons are 10-4 against Chico State at the CCAA Championship, and had won seven straight meetings at the event ... Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 162 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 117 straight games, all of them starts ... JD Hearn has appeared in 84 games in a row, all of them starts ... Hearn, Howsley and Larsen are the only Tritons to appear in all 53 games this season, with only Hearn and Larsen starting each ... Tim Nelson drew his first collegiate start after a team-best 24 appearances a year ago and nine this season, all in relief ... Larsen's walk in the third extended his reached-base streak to 35 games ... Keenan Brigman's sixth-inning single extended his current team-best hit streak to 16 ... Crosbie's sixth-inning shot moved UCSD further atop the CCAA in home runs, now with 49, and extended its streak to 10 games with at least one home run, with multiple blasts in eight ... UCSD has totaled 22 home runs in those contests ... Larsen finishes his career with seven home runs at Banner Island Ballpark, all coming over his last eight games there.