SAN FRANCISCO - Jack Larsen's two-out heroics kept No. 10 University of California San Diego alive to post a series-clinching triumph over SF State, 5-3 in 10 innings, in game one of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) baseball doubleheader on Friday at Maloney Field.
UC San Diego trotted out to a 3-0 lead early in the nine-inning nightcap and completed the series sweep with a 7-2 decision.
With five straight wins, the first-place Tritons moved to 18-4 overall and 10-2 in the CCAA. SF State dropped to 4-19 overall and 2-13 in league play. UCSD had taken Thursday's opener, 6-2.
The Tritons fly home on Friday evening and head into winter quarter final exams on Saturday. They return to action at Triton Ballpark for another three-game series next weekend against Sonoma State, the primetime opener set for a 6 p.m. first pitch on Saturday, March 25.
Game One - UCSD 5, SFSU 3 (10)
Both teams ended up with nothing to show for eventful first frames. UCSD got a leadoff triple into the right field corner from Tim White, but he was immediately cut down at the plate on a fielder's choice. The Tritons could only then add a walk around a pair of strikeouts.
The Gators put their leadoff man on via error in the home half and bunted him over to second. A two-out single then put men at second and third, but sophomore right-hander Kyle Mora caught Chris Nicholson staring at strike three to keep it scoreless.
After a 1-2-3 top of the second, the home side threatened again in its turn. A leadoff single and one-out balk had Bryce Brooks on second, but back-to-back groundouts to shortstop Tyler Howsley left Brooks stranded at third.
UCSD advanced a runner to third in the third, too, but once again, the score remained 0-0. Michael Palos singled and was sacrificed to second by White. He moved to third on a right-sided groundout, but another groundout ended the frame.
The Tritons finally cracked the scoreboard in the fifth. Palos' second at-bat was kept alive by a dropped foul ball by Nicholson. The redshirt sophomore catcher then singled to right and scooted over to second on an outfield error. With two gone, Larsen benefitted from a wicked hop past Nicholson down the line for an RBI double. JD Hearn was then hit by a pitch, but a popout left UCSD with a 1-0 edge.
Jackson Kritsch poked a single through the left side to begin the Gator fifth. Palos promptly picked him off of first, but SFSU still threatened as with two gone, an infield error and Jacob Lopez single put runners at the corners. Blaine Jarvis relieved Mora, and his first career wild pitch moved Lopez to second. The redshirt freshman right-hander got Jordan Abernathy to ground out, however, to Hearn at third.
SF State knotted the score in the sixth through a leadoff home run by cleanup hitter Dalton Pizzuti. It was the senior catcher's first on the year, just the fourth by a Gator in 2017, and also only the fourth off of Triton pitching. The run was the first allowed by Jarvis after 11.0 shutout innings pitched.
The hosts went on to load the bases on a single, sacrifice, hit-by-pitch, and, after Jonah Dipoto replaced Jarvis, a walk. An RBI groundout gave SFSU its first lead of the series, 2-1, before Dipoto struck out Connor Fidone looking to limit the damage.
Hearn singled and went to second on a wild pitch to start the eighth off of new pitcher Ryan Bohnet (1-3), but two groundouts and a strikeout stranded him there.
Dipoto set the Gators down in order in the seventh on three flyouts to Larsen, who had moved from right field to center in the sixth. He then dodged a one-out single in the ninth to keep the deficit at a manageable one, getting a second strikeout before Palos threw the runner out at second trying to steal.
UCSD led off the ninth with a single again, this time by Justin Flatt through the right side. Howsley sacrificed him to second, and Palos drew a walk. With Chad Crosbie coming on to run for Palos, White flew out to move Flatt to third. Larsen, as he's done time and time again for the Tritons over his stellar four-year career, came through in the clutch, his two-run double down the right field line chasing both of his teammates home for a 3-2 advantage.
The Tritons were not able to hold that edge, though, as Kritsch started the home ninth with a single off of Troy Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS). A sacrifice, groundout and walk to Lopez saw Gators land on the corners. A double steal made it 3-3 before Cruz fanned Abernathy swinging with Lopez at third to extend the game.
Cruz (3-1) returned to the hill and despite another leadoff single, to Pizzuti, put the capper via popout, swinging strikeout and flyout to earn his third winning decision.
"We pitched well all day and I really thought our at-bats were solid throughout the (first) game," said UCSD head coach Eric Newman. "Even when we weren't scoring early, I liked our at-bats and felt like we were going to break through.
"We have been finding ways to win games like that, even when we make some mistakes. Those at-bats in the ninth and 10th innings were pretty special."
UCSD has now won three CCAA road games when it entered its final at-bat trailing.
Mora went 4.2 innings and allowed no runs on four hits and a balk. The San Jose product struck out one. He navigated around a one-out single in the third before producing his first perfect frame in the fourth.
Larsen was 2-for-5 with two doubles and three RBI. Palos finished 2-for-3 with a walk and run scored.
Junior right-hander Andrew Najeeb-Brush gave up an unearned run on four hits, two walks, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch over 7.0 frames, striking out five. His second perfect inning came in the sixth.
Game Two - UCSD 7, SFSU 2
UCSD jumped right on senior right-hander Brent Montgomery in the first inning of the nightcap, to the tune of two runs. Brigman led off with a single, Larsen walked and Hearn bunted them both into scoring position. Montgomery's second wild pitch of the early going plated Brigman, with an Alex Eliopulos double scoring Larsen. The Tritons would load the bases on a Durna single and Crosbie walk, but get no more.
Redshirt senior right-hander Adrian Orozco cruised through the home first via called third strike and a pair of groundouts.
With two gone in the second, Larsen achieved his 200th career hit in style, with another two-out RBI knock, this one a solo home run, for a 3-0 cushion. It was his third homer of the season and 15th of his college days. The Mission Viejo product, who has worn jersey No. 16 throughout his time as a Triton, is just the 16th player in program history to reach the 200-hit plateau.
"It's a great accomplishment and is a testament to his hard work and competitiveness," remarked Newman about his veteran star.
SF State got two runs back in its next turn on a two-out, two-run single to center from Sam Schmidt after the inning had begun with back-to-back hits. Orozco finally got Myles Franklin looking to end it with Gators at first and second, up just 3-2.
UCSD proceeded to score more in both of its next two at-bats, getting a two-out, first-pitch, RBI single up the middle by Howsley in the third. Brigman opened the fourth with a double and sprinted around on Larsen's RBI single. Larsen then swiped second, and ultimately scored from third on Durna's two-out single.
In the meantime, Orozco settled down and posted back-to-back 1-2-3 frames in the third and fourth, retiring eight straight Gators all told, with three on strikes and four on ground balls. After successive one-out singles in the fifth, he coolly separate himself from that situation with a 6-4-3 double play, UCSD's first of the series.
UCSD added another run in the seventh on a right-sided RBI groundout by Crosbie after a one-out, four-pitch walk to Durna and a pinch-hit double by Jesse Moore.
"We carried the momentum from that first game and had really competitive at-bats the first five innings," concluded Newman. "Adrian overcame a little early inconsistency and really pitched well. The bullpen was tremendous all day."
Orozco (3-0) surrendered two runs on five hits and one walk over his 5.0 innings. The Chula Vista (Otay Ranch HS) native struck out four, coming off of his previous outing from Sunday that featured a career-best 12 punchouts.
Kyle Lucke took over for Orozco in the sixth and after a first-pitch flyout, wiped out a hit-by-pitch with a second 6-4-3 twin killing in as many frames. The sophomore right-hander then breezed through a 1-2-3 seventh, all on the infield.
A great moment came when John Erhardt took the mound to begin the home eighth. The redshirt junior right-hander's last appearance was nearly a year ago on March 21, 2016, in a short starting stint at Cal Poly Pomona before being shut down and having Tommy John surgery. Erhardt got a popout and fielder's choice following an infield single. Travis Roberts retired his only batter to get out of that inning, and Cameron Kurz struck out two Gators looking around a two-out walk in the ninth.
Larsen wound up 2-for-4 with his home run, a walk, three runs, two RBI and a stolen base. Durna was 2-for-4 with a walk, two runs and a steal of his own. Brigman went 2-for-5 from the leadoff spot with a double and two runs. The trio accounted for all seven of the Tritons' runs. Larsen drove in five on the day to increase his team-leading season total to 23.
Montgomery (1-3) lasted 2.0 frames with three runs against him on four hits and two walks. He struck out one.
Triton Notes: Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 131 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 86 straight games, all of them starts ... Game One: Kyle Mora made his sixth start of the year and 14th of his Triton career ... The first-inning triple by Tim White was his first ... Michael Palos' leadoff single in the third was his first hit of 2017 in his ninth official at-bat ... Larsen's RBI doubles in the fifth and ninth give him a team-best five ... Howsley was credited with his first error since Feb. 5 in the fifth, snapping a string of 75 consecutive defensive chances handled cleanly ... UCSD improved to 2-1 in extra innings ... Game Two: Adrian Orozco made his fifth start of the year an sixth of his Triton career ... True freshman Chad Crosbie drew his first collegiate start in right field ... Alex Eliopulos' first-inning double tied him for the team lead with Larsen at five apiece ... Keenan Brigman's double in the fourth was his second ... Larsen's fourth-inning steal was his third ... Tyler Durna's fourth-inning steal was the first of his career on his second try ... Jesse Moore made his first appearance since a start at Cal State San Marcos on Feb. 25, and provided his second double.