POMONA, Calif. - The No. 7 University of California San Diego baseball team rallied twice late to procure an improbable 8-7 win over No. 14 Cal Poly Pomona in the seven-inning nightcap and earn the split of both a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) doubleheader at Scolinos Field on Saturday afternoon, and the four-game series.
UC San Diego allowed a pair of runs in each of the first two innings and was unable to make them up in a 4-2 defeat to the Broncos in game one.
With the results, UC San Diego moved to 11-6 overall and 7-5 in the CCAA. Cal Poly Pomona is 8-6 overall and 5-3 in league play. The teams had each won once in two meetings in La Jolla on Thursday night and Friday afternoon. They have combined for the last three NCAA Division II West Region crowns, with UCSD the defending champion, after CPP had earned the 2015 and 2016 titles.
Game One - No. 14 CPP 4, No. 7 UCSD 2
UC San Diego struck first in the opening frame as Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS), the reigning CCAA Player of the Week, was hit by an 0-1 pitch by junior right-handed starter Dylan Francis, and with two away, redshirt freshman designated hitter Blake Baumgartner slapped an RBI double inside the left field line and to the wall.
CPP scored twice in the home half. The first two Broncos reached base via single and a walk, and with one away, Brennan McKenzie doubled over Brandon Stewart's head toward right center to tie. An ensuing RBI groundout made it 2-1 in favor of the hosts.
Redshirt junior catcher Michael Palos fought off a 1-2 pitch to the opposite field for a double just beyond the reach of the diving Bronco second baseman down the line with two away in the second, but UCSD left a man there for the second successive frame.
The home second began the same way as the first, with a single and a walk. This time, Rupe, Jr., made the play to retire the lead runner on the sacrifice attempt, but on his very next pitch, leadoff man Drew Cowley doubled into the gap in left center. Cody Martin then singled through the left side for 4-1. Kyle Lucke took over for Rupe, Jr., and induced a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of the dangerous Nic Hernandez.
The Tritons got a leadoff single from Shay Whitcomb inside the left field line to begin the third, and Eliopulos drew Francis' first walk of the afternoon, on four tosses, but a popout and 5-3 double play killed that threat.
The Broncos looked like they would add to their lead in their third, opening with a double, single and wild pitch, but both runners were stranded in scoring position as Lucke got a swinging strikeout, popout and flyout to keep his team in the game.
UC San Diego got one back in the fifth as Keenan Brigman doubled down the right field line for openers, and after a Whitcomb lineout and Eliopulos single, trotted home from third on Zander Clarke's sacrifice fly.
Whitcomb and Eliopulos again reached base through a one-out single and walk, but Ben Mora got Clarke swinging and Tyler Durna, hitting for Baumgartner, looking.
Senior right-hander Jack Rupe, Jr., (0-2) lasted just 1.1 innings and allowed four runs on five hits and two walks, striking out one. Lucke went a season-long 4.2 frames and struck out one with three hits and a walk against him. He worked a 1-2-3 fourth, getting a running grab toward the gap in right center from Brigman, who had taken over in center to start the third, for the third out. Lucke also induced another 4-6-3 double play to wipe out a one-out walk in the fifth.
Redshirt sophomore right-hander Blaine Jarvis worked around a two-out single in a clean seventh with a called third strike. He wasn't bothered by a leadoff infield single in the eighth, either, fielding the sacrifice, then a soft comebacker with a flip to first after looking the Bronco runner back to second, and finally getting a popout.
Eliopulos was a perfect 2-for-2 with two walks, a hit-by-pitch and a run scored as he reached base in all five plate appearances. Whitcomb was 2-for-5. Brigman finished 1-for-3 with a double and a run.
Francis (1-1) gave up two runs on seven hits, one walk and a hit-by-pitch over 5.1 frames. The Ventura College transfer struck out two. Ben Mora tossed 3.2 shutout innings with five strikeouts for his second save.
Game Two - No. 7 UCSD 8, No. 14 CPP 7 (7)
CPP scored first in the initial frame thanks to an infield single that off glanced off junior right-handed starting pitcher Jonah Dipoto with a runner at third. The Broncos had gotten a one-out walk ahead of a single at the end of a lengthy at-bat by Hernandez, who was subsequently caught in between first and second and put out.
Following a quick flyout in the second, UCSD had two runners on courtesy of a Baumgartner walk and Schuknecht single through the right side, but back-to-back swinging strikeouts kept it at a 1-0 deficit.
Justin Beck walked and Whitcomb was hit to begin the third. Durna bunted them over, but Eliopulos then flew into a twin killing, as Jacob Bernardy fired home to Martin to get Beck.
CPP doubled the advantage in the third, taking advantage of some rough defensive play by the Tritons. After a one-out walk and right-sided groundout to move Martin to second, McKenzie's fly ball fell in between three UCSD fielders, and inside the right field line, going down as an RBI double. Brigman made another tough catch to end it.
The Broncos loaded the bases on two walks around a hit-by-pitch in the fourth, and got a two-run single up the middle from Bernardy for a 4-0 cushion.
UC San Diego was down, but not out, putting up an improbable four-spot in the fifth. Brigman sparked the rally by getting hit by a pitch to lead off. Nick Kitzmann was then also plunked, Beck walked, and Whitcomb was hit by a pitch to force in Brigman. An infield popout by Durna and shallow flyout from Eliopulos did not enable any more runners to come home and it looked like the comeback had stalled, but Clarke managed to smack a single into the shortstop hole. CPP freshman Drew Cowley picked up the ball and threw wide of Hernandez at first base, allowing all three runners to come around for 4-4. Clarke was credited with an infield single and one RBI.
Looking for a shutdown inning, the Tritons were unable to get it, the Broncos again filling the bags ahead of a second two-run single from Bernardy to go back up, 6-4.
In the sixth, UC San Diego made it back-to-back four-run frames. It was Brigman again who started things, legging out a hustle double with one away, and scored easily on a two-out double by Beck. Three successive walks, the last one to Eliopulos, forced pinch-runner Stewart home to level matters again at 6-6. Clarke then sent a 1-2 offering sharply into center to score two to regain an 8-6 advantage for UCSD.
Redshirt junior right-hander Cameron Kurz (Encinitas/La Costa Canyon HS) took over in the sixth and the Broncos loaded the bases on two walks and a hit-by-pitch around a pair of outs. That brought up Bernardy, who had singled in two runs apiece in his two previous trips to the plate. This time, Kurz got the better of him, getting the senior centerfielder to wave helplessly at an 0-2 toss.
In the home seventh, it was still more drama. With one run across, the bases still loaded and the winning run standing on second, Kurz froze Hunter Tidwell for the final out of the game, picking up his fourth save of the year and second of the series.
Dipoto allowed four runs on four hits, three walks and two hit-by-pitches over three-plus innings. He struck out one. Conlon (3-0) earned the winning decision.
Clarke was 3-for-4 with two big RBI.
Junior right-hander Michael Gomez went 4.0 frames and gave up no runs on one hit, two walks and a hit-by-pitch, striking out seven, all swinging, including the side in order in the first. He added a second 1-2-3 inning in the fourth. Brian Conley (0-2) took the loss.
The teams combined for 10 hit-by-pitches and 15 walks for 25 free passes on base.
Triton Notes: Game One: The doubles by Michael Palos and Keenan Brigman were the second of the year for both players ... Zander Clarke's fifth-inning sacrifice fly was his first as a Triton ... The stint by Kyle Lucke was the longest relief outing of his career, and longest since a 4.2-inning starts in his fourth collegiate appearance on March 3, 2016 ... Tyler Durna pinch-hit for the second straight game after missing the previous five contests due to injury, this time remaining as the designated hitter ... Game Two: Durna started for the first time since Feb. 18, as the designated hitter.