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Photo by: Andy Wilhelm
Brandon Shirley hit his first home run of 2017 in game one and stole two bases in the nightcap.
Big Inning, Cruz Relief Enable No. 8 Tritons to Salvage Doubleheader Split at Stanislaus State
Release: Saturday 04/01/2017 
by UCSD

TURLOCK, Calif. - Eighth-ranked University of California San Diego used a big inning and some effective relief to beat Stanislaus State, 8-5, and salvage the split of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) doubleheader at Warrior Baseball Field on Saturday. The Tritons had earlier been left to rue missed chances in a 6-3 game-one loss.

UC San Diego moved to 21-6 overall and 13-4 in the CCAA. Stanislaus State is now 20-11 overall and remained an even 10-10 in league play. With Cal Poly Pomona getting swept in a twin bill at Cal State Monterey Bay, the Tritons have opened up a 3.5-game cushion over the Broncos in the CCAA South standings.

UC San Diego has yet to lose a series in eight tries in 2017, with seven wins and a split, and will look to keep that statistic intact in the getaway-day rubber game with Stan State on Sunday, April 2. First pitch at Warrior Baseball Field is set for 12 p.m.

Game One - STAN 6, UCSD 3
UCSD jumped right out in front of the Warriors on senior right-hander Jordan Kron's very first offering of the contest, as redshirt senior centerfielder Brandon Shirley took it deep over the wall in left center for his first home run of 2017. Tim White followed by drawing a four-pitch walk and JD Hearn singled to center. Though Kron was able to get a key strikeout on the dangerous Jack Larsen, Alex Eliopulos lived to see another day when the leftfielder dropped his foul ball down the line, and ultimately slipped an RBI single up the middle. That was all the Tritons would get.

The Tritons looked to be back in business in the second as Kron walked Justin Flatt on five pitches and plunked Tyler Howsley with his very next toss for openers. But after a lineout, Howsley was called out when he was contacted by White's batted ball, and Hearn popped up to keep the Warrior deficit at 2-0.

Larsen began the third by lacing a double into the right field corner ahead of Eliopulos' single through the right side, but again UCSD was unable to add to its lead, as Tyler Durna's flyout wasn't deep enough to send Larsen home from third, and Kron induced a ground-ball double play off the bat of Michael Palos.

Stan State came right out with back-to-back singles and a successful sacrifice in the home half. Kyle Nixon then came through with an opposite-field, two-run double up against the fence in left center to knot the score at 2-2. Sophomore left-hander Preston Mott struck out the next two Warriors to keep Nixon at second.

Kron continued to live dangerously, walking Flatt on four straight in the fourth to give UCSD its fourth leadoff base-runner in as many innings, but a sacrifice, strikeout and flyout left the Triton stranded at second.

Mott ducked around a leadoff single off his leg in the fourth after a sacrifice, strikeout and groundout, but Kron started to get settled in, following his nine-pitch fourth with the first 1-2-3 frame by either hurler in the fifth on just five tosses. Again in the home fifth, Mott found himself in trouble with a pair of walks around flyouts to Shirley in center, but got John Holleran swinging to end that threat.

Durna, the reigning CCAA Player of the Week for the second time this season, took Kron's first pitch in the sixth and pulled it into right for a leadoff single. Palos bunted him over. With two gone, Durna scooted over to third on Kron's first wild pitch of the day, but Howsley went down swinging.

Shirley opened the seventh with a five-pitch walk off of new pitcher Tyler Murphy (3-0), but again the Tritons failed to get him around, as a popout, caught stealing and strikeout ended it.

That set up a nightmare home seventh in which Stan State struck for four on a solitary hit. Gino Franceschetti rallied from an 0-2 count to draw an eight-pitch walk off of UCSD reliever Blaine Jarvis (1-1) with one away. Travis Roberts took over on the mound and hit Nixon with his second effort. Just like his predecessor, Erik Amundson threw one ball before plunking the batter, pinch-hitter Jack Large, to load the bases. Holleran, who had struck out in his first three at-bats, battled for a nine-pitch walk to give the Warriors their first lead of the afternoon. Senior second Aldo Koutsoyanopulos, a teammate of Howsley and Larsen's at Capistrano Valley High School, took the next offering through the left side for a two-run single. An error kept the carousel going at 6-2 before a flyout double play stopped the bleeding.

UCSD got just one of those back in the ninth as Shirley's fly ball dropped in front of the leftfielder after pinch-hitter Keenan Brigman had been hit with one out. White's RBI groundout plated Brigman.

Out of the nine innings, UCSD had the leadoff man reach base safely in seven, but had a runner stranded at third in five of them and second in two others.

Mott allowed two runs on five hits and three walks over 5.0 innings, with a career-high seven strikeouts. The Clovis product expended 24 pitches, including a 10-pitch, one-out walk, but managed to complete the shutdown frame in the first when he got Austin Fitzpatrick swinging.

Kron went 6.0 innings and gave up two runs, one of them earned, on seven hits, three walks and a hit-by-pitch, striking out three. Franceschetti by himself saw 31 pitches in the contest in his five plate appearances, with three walks and a sacrifice.

Game Two - UCSD 8, STAN 5
UCSD struck for five runs on just three hits and one big Warrior error in the fourth and made it hold up, largely due to redshirt senior right-hander Troy Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS) settling things down on the mound with four complete innings of three-hit, shutout relief. Cruz earned his team-best third save, with the win being credited also in relief to sophomore right-hander Kyle Lucke (3-0).

The first saw dueling 1-2-3 innings from both junior starting pitchers, with left-hander Cody Kruip needing 10 pitches for Stan State and right-hander Jack Rupe, Jr., just nine for UCSD. The latter benefitted from what was by all accounts a robbed home run in left by a leaping Brigman on Franceschetti for the second out.

UCSD finally for the first time all day, took advantage in the second as Larsen reached on an infield error, moved to second on a wild pitch with one away, to third on a balk, and scored the unearned opening run on Jesse Moore’s RBI groundout.

The Warriors wasted no time answering, getting a single and sacrifice to start their second ahead of Koutsoyanopulos' RBI triple that just evaded Shirley in deep center. A wild pitch pushed the go-ahead run across.

UCSD batted around in the big fourth, beginning with Hearn's first-pitch single back up the middle. Larsen worked a five-pitch base on balls from Kruip, which is when the game's key action occurred. Eliopulos laid down the sacrifice, but the throw to first got away, enabling both Hearn and Larsen to score. With Tritons at the corners, Durna poked an RBI single through the right side. Nick Kitzmann's sacrifice moved two more into scoring position, and after a pitching change, J.T. Williams blooped an RBI single over the drawn-in infield to the opposite field beyond the second baseman's reach. Shirley picked up Durnan with an RBI fielder's choice groundout.

The Tritons failed in their bid for a shutdown frame in the home half, but answered Stanislaus' lone unearned run on a two-out, bases-loaded passed ball, with one of their own in the fifth. Hearn again got the rally started, this time with a walk. Larsen's infield single and another free pass to Eliopulos filled the bags with no outs. Moore followed with another productive out and run driven in, but that was all.

Again, Stan State responded, on Holleran's two-run, opposite-field single with the bases loaded, two outs and an 0-2 count against him. Lucke caught Nathan Chunn looking with the bases still full to limit the damage and maintain a 7-5 advantage.

UCSD manufactured one final insurance tally in the seventh, unearned via two-out rally. Eliopulos reached on Holleran's throwing miscue, Moore singled to center, and Durna went to left with an RBI single on a 2-2 pitch for 8-5.

The rest was all Cruz, who took over to begin the sixth and shut the Warriors down. He dodged a two-out walk in that sixth, a one-out error in the seventh, a one-out single in the eighth and a two-out infield single in the ninth. Cruz fanned three.

The home fourth could have been a lot worse for UCSD except for Durna's great pick-up of a low throw by Williams on Koutsoyanopulos for the second out. Durna was the only Triton with multiple hits, at 2-for-4 with a run and two RBI.

Rupe, Jr., a San Marcos product out of Mission Hills High School, drew his first starting assignment since Feb. 25 at Cal State San Marcos. He gave up two runs on two hits, with two strikeouts and no walks, in 3.0 innings. Rupe retired the Warriors in order in the third, getting help from Shirley on the second out with a tough catch up against the wall in straightaway center.

Kruip (3-3) took the loss.

Triton Notes: Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 136 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 91 straight games, all of them starts ... Tyler Durna extended his team-best streaks to 18 straight games reaching base and 13 with a hit ... Game One: Preston Mott made his team-best ninth start of the year and 23rd of his career ... The leadoff home run by Brandon Shirley was his first since March 21, 2015 ... It was Shirley's first home run to begin a game, but third on the first pitch of an inning ... Howsley's fourth-inning sacrifice was his team-best ninth, now tied for second in the CCAA behind only Stan State's Charlie Gaff, who had one to increase his season total to 15 ... Larsen provided his team-best fourth outfield assist to end the seventh ... Game Two: JD Hearn drew his first start of the year at second base after 26 in a row at third ... Hearn had led the Tritons with 21 starts at second base in 2016 ... Alex Eliopulos thus made his first start as a Triton at third after having started a team-high 19 times as the designated hitter ... Jesse Moore started for the first time as the DH after three starts in left ... Nick Kitzmann earned his first start since March 4 ... J.T. Williams started at shortstop for just the second time in his third appearance since recovering from a hand injury ... Jack Rupe, Jr. made his third start of the year and 10th of his career.

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