LA JOLLA, Calif. - The seventh-ranked University of California San Diego baseball team dropped a much-anticipated showdown with No. 4 Colorado Mesa University, 11-1, in its home opener on Friday afternoon.
Seventh-year head coach Eric Newman's club responded, and in resounding fashion.
On Sunday, UC San Diego produced 26 runs on 23 hits in routing that same Mesa team, 12-3, and then Concordia University Irvine, 14-2. Combined with Saturday night's 10-3 decision over Concordia, the Tritons answered the call to the tune of 36 runs on 33 hits since Friday's disappointment.
With Sunday's results, the Tritons improve to 4-1 on the season. Mesa, likewise a reigning regional champion and 2017 national semifinalist, returns to Grand Junction, Colo., at an even 2-2, and Concordia is left at 2-6.
UC San Diego actually only scored in five innings on the day, with a pair of six-run frames in game one, and then two of the five-run variety and finally one with four tallies in the second.
Sunday's activity also meant the early conclusion of UC San Diego's 2018 non-conference slate. The Tritons welcome in San Francisco State all next weekend to get the 44-game California Collegiate Athletic Association season underway with a four-game series at Triton Ballpark on East Campus in La Jolla. The primetime opener on Friday night, Feb. 16, is set for a 6 p.m. first pitch.
Game One - No. 7 UCSD 12, No. 4 CMU 3
UC San Diego rallied from an early 3-0 hole with a pair of six-run frames, in the third and eighth.
Senior left-hander Chris Ramirez had retired the first six UCSD batters, with three strikeouts and three groundouts, while his teammates procured the advantage, and just as the Triton faithful may have been thinking a long afternoon was developing, redshirt junior catcher Michael Palos sparked the rally by slapping a double three-quarters up the left field wall to lead off the third for his side's first base-runner. Justin Beck singled through the right side, and with runners at the corners and one away, freshman shortstop Shay Whitcomb's sacrifice fly put UC San Diego on the board.
Tyler Durna and Zander Clarke followed with a single and walk to load the bases, and a wild pitch that Ramirez spiked into the ground well in front of the plate, made it 3-2 as Beck came across. Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) singled to right center to drive in Durna and tie the game. Then redshirt freshman Aaron Kim connected on a 3-1 pitch for what initially looked harmless enough to the naked eye, but the ball landed over the right field wall, just inside the foul pole, for a two-out, three-run, opposite-field home run, the first of his college career, giving UCSD the lead for good.
Having sent nine to the plate in that inning, UC San Diego did the same in the eighth, once again ignited by a leadoff double. This time it was redshirt sophomore Keenan Brigman lacing a two-bagger into the left field corner on the first pitch of the frame. A pitching change did not work out for the Mavericks, as the new arm threw six balls among seven tosses before quickly exiting. With bags full, the third pitcher to see action in the inning got a called third strike and a flyout, not deep enough to score a run, but then it all went wrong. Back-to-back walks to Durna and Clarke forced Brigman and new catcher Nick Kitzmann home. On the very next pitch, Eliopulos hammered a grand slam out to right for his third tape-measure home run in two games. It was his eighth home run as a Triton, and first slam.
Jonah Dipoto (1-0), who led the team with 23 mound appearances a year ago, all in relief, drew his first start since May 11, 2016, and was a key factor in the day's success. The junior right-hander put three zeroes on the scoreboard after the unsteady start, including a big 1-2-3 shutdown frame in the fourth after the first Triton rally. Dipoto allowed the three runs on four hits and a walk over 5.0 innings, with four strikeouts.
Colorado Mesa got a leadoff single in the first and a one-out Reagan Todd home run over the scoreboard in right center for a 2-0 lead just three batters in. In the second, a one-out walk preceded a Tanner Rempel double inside the left field line, and a first-pitch John Ballard sacrifice fly accounted for the visitors' 3-0 edge. With a Maverick runner still at third, Dipoto got the swinging strikeout to keep him there.
Following a one-out hit-by-pitch in the fifth, Dipoto was aided by Durna at first on a tough stop, covering the bag himself for one final action before leaving the contest. In the sixth, Eliopulos slid nicely to his right for another difficult stab, before making the strong throw, to help keep the inning from turning into anything after a leadoff single.
Kyle Lucke, like Dipoto a junior right-hander, tossed three shutout frames in relief, scattering five hits without a walk. His lone strikeout was on his final batter in the eighth, with Mavs at second and third and UCSD still nursing just a 6-3 advantage. Lucke had gotten flyouts right into fielders' gloves on successive tosses with one out.
Redshirt junior right-hander Cameron Kurz (Encinitas/La Costa Canyon HS) worked through two singles to begin the ninth, ending the contest with a 4-6-3 double play and a called third strike on Todd.
Eliopulos finished 2-for-4 with the home run, a hit-by-pitch, two runs scored and a career-best five RBI. Kim was 1-for-5 with his three-run shot, and Palos 2-for-2 with a double and a run. Beck went 1-for-2 with two walks and two runs, while Clarke drew three free bases, scored two and drove in one. Durna also had two runs and an RBI.
Game Two - No. 7 UCSD 14, Concordia 2
UC San Diego again gave up the first run of the game, but back-to-back five-run outbursts in the second and third put the result out of doubt fairly early.
Eleven Tritons made it up to the plate in the second, with redshirt freshman designated hitter Blake Baumgartner leading things off with a walk. He would walk again later in the same frame. With one away, redshirt sophomore leftfielder Steven Schuknecht got a hold of a 3-1 offering from freshman right-hander Joshua Ibarra, losing it over the wall in right field for his first collegiate home run. It was a nice reward for the Palm Desert product, who saw his 2017 season cut short due to injury.
The Tritons totaled just three hits in the inning, actually, and capitalized on four walks and a hit-by-pitch. With two gone and the bases full, Clarke slid a two-run single up the middle for 4-1, and Eliopulos dropped an opposite-field RBI single into left.
In the third, UCSD sent nine up to bat, with the key hit a two-run double to right center by Durna. Eliopulos later managed an RBI infield single, with Durna also scoring on a throwing error. Baumgartner smoked an RBI double over the rightfielder's head.
The Tritons batted around for a fifth and final time on the day during a four-run eighth. Brigman's two-run single inside the left field line came after a bases-loaded, RBI single by Schuknecht and a run-scoring wild pitch.
Noah Conlon (1-0), a true freshman right-hander out of Placentia, made his college debut as the Tritons' mound starter, fanning seven over his five complete innings, with two runs against him on four hits and a walk. Fellow true freshman right-hander Cameron Leonard, and redshirt freshman right-hander Antonio Barrios, each went two scoreless innings from there, with Leonard striking out two and Barrios three.
Brigman, Durna, Clarke, Eliopulos, Schuknecht and Stewart made up half a dozen Tritons with two hits apiece. Brigman , Durna, Clarke and Eliopulos, the 1-2-3-4 batters in the UCSD order, also each drove in a pair. Schuknecht was 2-for-5 with his home run, two runs and three RBI. Six players crossed home plate twice.
Redshirt freshman centerfielder Brandon Stewart made a great, running catch into the gap in right center to end the first.
Triton Notes: Alex Eliopulos and Tyler Durna ended the opening week with 12 and 10 runs batted in, respectively ... Keenan Brigman started each of the last three games of the weekend, in center, in left and at shortstop, respectively, and in Sunday's nightcap, was in the leadoff position and at shortstop, both for just the third time in his college career ... Game One: The result snapped a three-game losing skid for UCSD against Mesa, all in La Jolla ... Game Two: Redshirt freshmen Blake Baumgartner, Kyle Selor and Brandon Stewart all notched their first collegiate hits, with Baumgartner's his first career extra-base hit, a double, while also producing his first RBI ... Nick Kitzmann was hit by a pitch three times, the first Triton to do so at least since 2012.
And here’s the capper! 0-for-9 since going 4-for-4 in college debut in opener Thursday, redshirt freshman goes oppo 3-R 💣 down RF line to give #Tritons 6-3 lead after 3!!! First college HR for Aaron! 💪 #GoTritons #CCAAbsb #d2bsb @D2BaseballNews pic.twitter.com/cDRtBMynUr— UCSD Triton Baseball (@UCSDbsb) February 11, 2018
Here's that 1st-pitch grand slam by Alex Eliopulos to round out scoring B8 in earlier game today vs. No. 4 Colorado Mesa. Punctuated 6-R frame, #UCSanDiego's 2nd of game in 12-3 victory. All 3 of Elo's HRs this season (2 last night) have been no-doubters to right. 💣💪 #EloBomb pic.twitter.com/QC5qjBsAf7— UCSD Triton Baseball (@UCSDbsb) February 11, 2018
Another big inning for #UCSanDiego, sending 11 to plate in 5-R B2 to take 5-1 lead! Just 3 hits (4BB, HBP), 1 of them this 1st collegiate HR (2-R) by RSo. Steven Schuknecht! 💣💪 #SchukBomb #GoTritons #CCAAbsb #d2bsb (H/T @SarahJansky) pic.twitter.com/Ig4fM9G1eb— UCSD Triton Baseball (@UCSDbsb) February 11, 2018