No. 12 Tritons Drop Series Finale at Sonoma State Ahead of Break for Final Exams
ROHNERT PARK, Calif. - Twelfth-ranked University of California San Diego was unable to protect a 2-1 edge and relinquished the finale of a four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) baseball series to Sonoma State University, 4-2, Sunday at Seawolf Diamond.
The result snaps a season-long four-game win streak for UC San Diego, all on the road, and drops the Tritons to 14-7 overall and 10-6 in the CCAA. Sonoma State moves to an even 9-9 overall and 5-7 in league play. The Tritons had already cinched this series victory with a 7-4 win on Friday afternoon, and a doubleheader sweep on Saturday by scores of 7-3 and 5-2 in seven innings.
Sonoma State did the same in the home half, through back-to-back walks, and converted, getting one on an infield RBI groundout. Junior starter Jonah Dipoto walked a third hitter for men at first and second, and got out of it with a ground ball.
A leadoff walk to cleanup man Zander Clarke put the Tritons in business in the fourth, and they managed to turn it into a 2-1 lead thanks to clutch two-out hitting by redshirt freshman leftfielder Brandon Stewart. Two fielder's choice groundouts bookended yet another Nick Kitzmann hit-by-pitch, leaving Michael Palos at third and Keenan Brigman at first. Brigman stole second just in time for Stewart's two-run single to left center.
Meanwhile, Dipoto cleaned up back-to-back singles from the top of the order in the third, with a 6-4-3 double play and a strikeout. He then returned to the mound after his side's two-run rally and walked the first batter, before dialing up a twin killing for a second successive frame, this one of the 4-6-3 variety, and then an infield popout.
Sonoma State finally surged back ahead with a three-run sixth. Things seemed to be in control early in the frame, with just a single in between a comebacker to Dipoto and a strikeout. But what followed was a walk, game-tying single, pitching change, RBI single, walk, and bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. Freshman right-hander Noah Conlon finally struck out leadoff man Bryce Nagata to keep the Tritons in the contest.
UCSD then in the seventh had men at the corners thanks to the bottom of its order, and the bases loaded with two gone and Alex Eliopulos at the plate, but came up empty. The Tritons could manage nothing with leadoff walks to Clarke and Stewart to begin the eighth and ninth, respectively.
Dipoto (1-2) went 5.2 innings and allowed four runs on five hits and five walks. He struck out four. Dipoto retired the Seawolves in order after the rocky first, on a swinging strikeout and two groundouts.
Durna had two of just four hits for the Tritons, matching their season low. Stewart went 1-for-2 with a walk, hit-by-pitch, two RBI and a steal. Clarke walked twice.
Michael Byerline gave up two runs on two hits, three walks and two hit-by-pitches over 5.0 frames, striking out six. The junior right-hander from La Mesa set the top of the Triton order down 1-2-3 in the third, on a flyout and two swinging strikeouts, and again in the fifth on a called third strike and two groundouts. Jackson Berumen (3-1) took over for a perfect sixth with two strikeouts.
The Tritons return home by bus late Sunday and head into the final week of the winter quarter ahead of final exams, which begin on Saturday, March 17. UC San Diego will thus be idle from competition until a second of three regular-season Northern California road trips, up to Seaside and Cal State Monterey Bay, March 25-26.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego surrendered the first run in all four games of the series, three times in the first, including today, and once in the second ... Alex Eliopulos and Zander Clarke are the only two Tritons to start all 21 games this season ... Nick Kitzmann's fourth-inning hit-by-pitch was his 10th on the year, pulling him into a tie for the CCAA lead ... The fourth-inning stolen bases by Keenan Brigman and Brandon Stewart were their third and team-best fourth on the season, respectively, with the duo a combined seven-for-seven in attempts ... In the fifth, Kitzmann threw out his third would-be base-stealer on his seventh try this year ... Jack Rupe, Jr., made his first relief appearance of the season and produced a 1-2-3 seventh with two strikeouts.