UCSD, which had already clinched the three-game series with wins of 10-5 and 8-7 the previous two nights, dropped to 4-2. Grand Canyon moved to 1-2.
“We competed really well at the plate,” said Triton head coach Eric Newman. “Unfortunately, we didn’t execute the way we are capable in a couple of situations and were unable to break the game open. We kept them in it, and they had the big (six-run fourth) inning. Our guys fought back, but we came up a couple hits short.
“All in all, we competed hard, but didn’t pitch or defend well today when we really needed to, and it cost us the game.”
The Tritons jumped on top early with a pair of infield singles by All-American centerfielder Danny Susdorf and junior leftfielder Justin Rahn around junior shortstop Dillon Moyer's fourth double of the year to begin the game. Susdorf's run on the Rahn hit made it 1-0 before Trent Wilson, a junior college transfer making his first appearance for GCU, could record an out.
Two each of alternating called third strikes and bases on balls, the last to senior third baseman Sam Michaels, pushed Moyer home with the game's second run, before a lineout limited the damage against the ‘Lopes right-hander.
A one-out hit-by-pitch to Susdorf, Moyer single and double steal put two runners in scoring position for UCSD again in the second. Wilson got Rahn and Richard Seigel each to chase strike three, however, around another hit-by-pitch to Nick La Face to load the bases, and the margin remained at 2-0.
On the mound for UCSD, starter Trevor Scott retired the first four ‘Lopes in order with three groundouts before serving up a one-out double in the second to Steven Swingle, who had blasted two home runs in the weekend's first two games. The threat was immediately extinguished as the GCU catcher was cut down trying to extend to a triple, with Susdorf earning credit for his second outfield assist in as many games, 8-6-5 on the putout.
After Scott turned in a second 1-2-3 frame with two strikeouts in the third, the top of the Triton order went back to work, as Susdorf drew a leadoff walk ahead of a third hit for Moyer, a single to right center. That signaled the end of Wilson's day, and Moyer promptly greeted new pitcher Brandon Bonilla with a theft of second. Rahn's single then plated both of his teammates for a 4-0 advantage.
Back-to-back walks meant a quick hook for Bonilla and left the bases full for junior second baseman Garrett Tuck, but sophomore hurler Coley Bruns got a flyout and a 5-2-3 double play off of Michaels' bat to give the ‘Lopes renewed life.
That end to the Tritons' turn indeed paid dividends for GCU, as leadoff batter Paul Panaccione reached base on an infield error, advanced to second on a balk and scored the home side's first run on a Seth Fretheim double. Five consecutive singles to chase Scott, still with nobody out, tied the score at 4-4 with bases full of ‘Lopes.
David Hart took over and struck Nick Chapman out swinging, but a seventh hit in the inning, an RBI single to center by number-nine batter Kyle Raidy, followed by a walk to Panaccione, put GCU ahead by the count of 6-4. Hart finally induced a 4-6-3 double play out of Fretheim as the ‘Lopes sent 11 men to the plate.
Grand Canyon added a run in the sixth as Panaccione's sacrifice fly with one gone and men at second and third enabled Chapman to trot home for 7-4.
For the second game in a row, the Tritons staged an eighth-inning rally. Having scored six times on Saturday to turn a 4-2 deficit into an 8-4 lead, UCSD started Sunday's eighth when Susdorf finally got to Bruns and singled to left field with one away. Moyer followed suit to bring on a pitching change. Following a fielder's choice grounder by Rahn for the second out, La Face walked to load the bases. The ‘Lopes went to closer Mark Jarrett, but Seigel's infield single brought in Susdorf, and an infield error allowed Tuck to reach and Rahn to score for 7-6. Jarrett got Michaels to fly out to keep Grand Canyon's narrow edge intact.
Blake Fassler had tossed a perfect seventh, and fellow right-hander Scott Zeman quickly matched him in the eighth to send the Triton bats right back out for one final attempt to snatch the victory and gain the series sweep. Sophomore catcher Brett Levy singled to Pannacione at shortstop for a promising start, but with one out, Susdorf lined into a game-ending double play.
The 1-2-3 hitters in the UCSD lineup, Susdorf, Moyer and Rahn, finished the contest a combined 8-for-14 with six runs, three RBI and three stolen bases. Moyer was 4-for-5 with a double, two runs and two steals. Susdorf scored three times and Rahn drove in three, each with a pair of hits. Levy went 3-for-5.
Scott (1-1) went three-plus innings and allowed six runs, five of them earned, on seven hits and no walks. The sophomore left-hander struck out two.
Wilson gave up four runs on six hits and three walks over three-plus innings, striking out four. Bruns (1-0) was remarkable over 4.1 frames with two runs, one earned, and three hits against him, striking out a pair. Twelve of his 13 outs came on the infield, including all six in a perfect sixth and seventh. He retired 10 straight before Susdorf's eighth-inning single, all on the infield. Jarrett earned his first save.
“Our guys understand that we have a chance to be really good if we play the way that we are capable of,” concluded Newman about his squad’s start to the campaign. “We’ve won two series against two quality teams, with this one in a tough place to play. We took the first two games here, and were in a position to win the third. That shows me a lot. We need to get better, but I like our competitiveness and fight.”
UCSD returns to La Jolla to begin a five-game homestand this Tuesday night, Feb. 12, hosting Point Loma Nazarene University. First pitch at Triton Ballpark is set for 6 p.m. The first of three 2013 meetings between the city rivals will serve as the Tritons' final tune-up before they open their title defense of four consecutive California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) regular-season crowns with a four-game weekend set against Cal State Stanislaus.
Triton Notes: UCSD is 35-21 all-time against former CCAA foe Grand Canyon, its run of 10 consecutive wins in Phoenix snapped with today's defeat ... Garrett Tuck started for the 78th consecutive game and made his 85th straight appearance ... Nick La Face drew his 63rd consecutive start ... Freshman Gradeigh Sanchez drew his first college start in right field ... Trevor Scott made the 12th start of his career on the mound ... Scott's 3.0 innings amounted to his shortest starting stint as a Triton ... Danny Susdorf's infield single to lead off the game extended his career-best hit streak to 23 games dating back to last season ... Susdorf also made five more plays cleanly in center field to extend his defensive streak without an error to his last 182 chances and 73 games dating back to April 29, 2011 ... Dillon Moyer's first-inning double tied him for the team lead with Susdorf at four apiece ... Adrian Orozco and Blake Fassler turned in their longest outings as Tritons at 1.2 and 1.0 innings, respectively, in relief.
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