RIVERSIDE, Calif. - The 24th-ranked UC San Diego baseball team stayed in the game after surrendering a four-run first, but was unable to get over the hump, falling in the end to No. 27 California Baptist University, 8-4, in a primetime non-conference tilt between nationally-rated in-region foes Wednesday night at Totman Stadium.
UCSD had its season-best seven-game win streak snapped in falling to 21-11 overall. California Baptist moved to 27-10. The Tritons and Lancers had not faced off in over a decade, since a 5-3 UCSD win in La Jolla on Feb. 17, 2004.
The Tritons were first to the scoreboard, in the opening inning without benefit of a hit. Erik Lewis was plunked with one out, Nick La Face reached via infield error, and Justin Rahn walked to load the bases, before an RBI fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Troy Cruz made it 1-0 in favor of the visitors. Despite another walk to Michael Mann to put Tritons at every base again, CBU starter Trevor Oaks got out of it without any further damage against him as Jack Larsen grounded out.
Two batters into the home half, it was tied. CBU’s leading hitter, Andy Crowley, led off with a double to the gap in right center. On the ensuing ground ball by Stephen Lohr, Triton shortstop Tyler Howsley tried to cut Crowley down at third base, but his awry throw allowed the Lancers’ junior centerfielder to score.
Following a one-out hit-by-pitch, the hosts surged ahead, 4-1, on back-to-back doubles by Nathan Antoun to plate two and Mark Sanchez to score Antoun.
UCSD got two of those runs right back in the second as Lewis lifted a two-out RBI double over Crowley’s head, and scored moments later on Rahn’s single to center.
An infield Cruz single and stolen base started things off promisingly in the third, but the sophomore rounded third and was gunned down at the plate as the tying run on Larsen’s one-out single to left field.
On for Chad Rieser to start the bottom half as UCSD staffed the mid-week game ahead of a conference series, David Hart navigated around a leadoff single by Blair Moore on an 0-2 pitch by inducing a pair of groundouts around an infield popout.
The Tritons threatened again in the fifth. Rahn singled for openers before Cruz worked the count full and walked. Oaks then caught Mann and Larsen each looking at strike three back-to-back, and Brett Levy went down swinging to keep it 4-3.
CBU doubled its advantage in the home fifth. Trevor Scott gave up a leadoff single and a walk. After a strikeout and a flyout, it appeared the junior left-hander had done enough to escape unscathed, but rightfielder Brandon Shirley completely lost Antoun’s fly ball in the lights, allowing Crowley to score on the RBI double.
Shirley walked with one away and advanced to second on a balk in the sixth, but a flyout and strikeout kept him there.
A two-out rally enabled UCSD to pull back to within a single run in the seventh. With two gone, Mann singled and Larsen walked, ahead of an RBI single to the gap in right center by Levy.
That was all the Tritons would get, however, as they failed to capitalize on a leadoff walk in the eighth while CBU tacked on three insurance runs over their final two turns at-bat.
Rieser (2-1) and Hart each retired the Lancers in order in their respective second frames in the second and fourth. Hart set down six of the seven batters he faced on four ground balls, one pop fly and one strikeout. Dan Kolodin followed Scott and came on to begin the sixth. Despite a couple of walks around a strikeout, the junior used a 6-4-3 double play to keep the deficit at two runs at the time. UCSD used six arms in all on the night.
Rahn was 3-for-4 with a walk and one RBI, while Lewis went 2-for-4 with a double, hit-by-pitch, two runs and one RBI. Larsen added two hits and a walk.
Oaks (7-0) went five full innings, allowing three runs, two of them earned, on six hits, four walks and two hit-by-pitches. He struck out six. Caleb Dirks notched his sixth save, registering all five of his outs via strikes.
Antoun finished 2-for-4 with his two doubles, run scored and three RBI. Crowley and Moore had two hits apiece, with Crowley scoring a pair of runs.
UCSD returns to La Jolla on Wednesday night and travels by bus Thursday to Turlock, where the Tritons will continue a season-long 11-game road stretch with four CCAA contests at Cal State Stanislaus over the weekend. First pitch for Friday’s opener under the new lights at Warrior Baseball Field is set for 6 p.m.
Triton Notes: Troy Cruz is the only Triton to start all 32 games, with seven coming on the mound ... Chad Rieser made his first collegiate start on the mound for UCSD ... With early hit-by-pitches to Erik Lewis and Brett Levy, UCSD pulled even with Chico State atop the CCAA, now with 53 hit-by-pitches ... Levy’s hit-by-pitch drew him even with Michael Mann atop the UCSD chart with nine on the year ... Nick La Face extended his reached-base streak to 29 games, the longest by a Triton in 2014 ... La Face’s second-inning walk was his league-best 30th ... With a steal in the third, Cruz has swiped a team-best five bases on five attempts ... Triton pitching allowed a season-high five doubles.