CHICO, Calif. - A three-run first and three-run blast late by Zander Clarke more than backed a complete-game performance on the mound from senior right-hander Jack Rupe, Jr. (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS), as the University of California San Diego earned the split of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) baseball doubleheader with rival Chico State at Nettleton Stadium on Sunday. UC San Diego won that seven-inning nightcap, 11-2, having been blanked for the first time in 2018 to begin the day, 7-0.
The early result meant a second straight loss for just the second time on the year for UC San Diego. The game-two romp gave the Tritons win No. 20, and kept them still without a three-game losing skid this season. UC San Diego moves to 20-12 overall and 16-11 in the CCAA. Chico State, a winner of four in a row after the shutout decision, is now 20-15 overall and 16-13 in league play, still a game back of UCSD in the standings. The Tritons are the reigning NCAA Division II West Region champions, while the Wildcats are defending CCAA regular-season and tournament champs.
With all of Sunday's action final, and still five single finales coming on Monday at 11 a.m. due to Friday's rain postponements in the Bay Area, UC San Diego remained in a two-way tie for second in the CCAA standings with Cal State LA (19-13, 16-11 CCAA). Both teams are three games back of leader Cal State Monterey Bay (25-8, 19-8 CCAA).
UC San Diego and Chico State conclude their four-game series with a single getaway game on Monday, April 9. The Tritons will look to complete their rally for a tough road split, while the 'Cats will vie for their first series victory since the first week of March. First pitch at Nettleton Stadium is set for 11 a.m. Live video, audio and stats are available at no charge here. Admission in Chico will be free.
Game One - CSUC 7, UCSD 0
Three straight two-strike singles began the home second and loaded the bases. The Tritons exchanged the day's first run for a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of RJ Hassey. A groundout got junior right-handed starter Kyle Lucke out of it with limited damage.
In the fourth, UC San Diego loaded the bases with two gone on an infield single, hit-by-pitch and walk, in and around a pair of nice stops at second base by Louie Canjura on left-handed batters Tyler Durna and Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS). Senior right-hander Hilario Tovar got Nick Kitzmann swinging to keep the 1-0 edge intact.
Chico State promptly went out and padded its lead to 5-0, batting around. Four straight one-out hits, punctuated by a two-run double into the left field corner by Hassey, made it 4-0. With two gone and 'Cats at the corners, Canjura served an RBI single into left on a 3-2 pitch.
Back-to-back one-out walks looked promising for UC San Diego in the fifth, but after turning an 0-2 deficit into a full count, Durna scalded a liner right up the middle into the shortstop's glove, who then doubled Brandon Stewart off second unassisted.
Senior second baseman Justin Beck opened the seventh by roping a double down the right field line. Tovar wriggled out of it through a strikeout, popout and flyout.
Lucke (0-3) went 5.0 innings and allowed five runs on a career-high 10 hits, no walks and two hit-by-pitches, striking out four. His only 1-2-3 frame was a quick one in the third, as he got a called third strike and a nice sliding catch running in from left field by Keenan Brigman, and then first baseman Durna ranged a good ways down the right field line to snatch a foul ball. Lucke had retired six in a row ahead of the four one-out hits in the fourth. He left the bases full in the fifth with a flyout to Brigman.
Redshirt freshman right-hander Antonio Barrios provided two shutout innings with a pair of strikeouts, starting an inning-ending 1-4-3 double play to end the seventh. Canjura's first home run as a Wildcat, a two-run shot to right, came off Barrios after a one-out walk in the eighth, to cap the scoring.
Shay Whitcomb was 1-for-2 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Beck went 1-for-2 with a double and two walks. Brigman made another really tough grab for the second out of the fifth, sprinting to his right and diving to rob Tyler Stofiel of extra bases with a runner at first. Eliopulos and Durna teamed up for a stellar play on Casey Henderson's leadoff bunt attempt in the eighth.
Tovar (4-4) tossed 7.1 shutout frames, scattering four hits, three walks and two hit-by-pitches while fanning three. Tovar retired the Tritons in order in the second on two flyouts and his first strikeout, and produced a perfect sixth as well.
The Tritons hit into a season-high four twin killings.
Game Two - UCSD 11, CSUC 2 (7)
UC San Diego had each of its first four hitters reach base in jumping out to the early 3-0 lead. Whitcomb worked the leadoff walk and moved to second on an immediate wild pitch to Durna. The freshman shortstop was thus able to come around with the game's first run as Durna then singled through the right side for his first hit of the series after starting it 0-for-8. It also marked the Tritons' first lead of the set.
Clarke followed with an RBI double off the top of the wall in left center, and Eliopulos sent an RBI single in front of the centerfielder for 3-0. That's all that UCSD would get it. Durna, Clarke and Eliopulos were 3-for-23 on the weekend heading in, and all produced RBI hits in that initial frame.
UC San Diego loaded the bases on a one-out error, Whitcomb walk and Durna single in the second. Clarke fouled out for the second out, but Eliopulos slapped an opposite-field RBI single through the left side for 4-0. After a pitching change, Beck went to the opposite field with a fly ball, but leftfielder Turner Olson made a great grab charging in and diving forward to save multiple runs.
The Tritons added to their lead again in the third. Following one-out singles by Brigman and Michael Palos, with two gone, Whitcomb walked for the third straight plate appearance. Brigman trotted home on a third Chico State wild pitch, just ahead of a hard flyout to center to end the frame off Durna's bat, leaving it 5-0.
Chico State got two of those runs back in the fifth on Henderson's first home run of the year, a two-out, two-run shot to left after Kyle Blakeman's one-out single. Eliopulos made a nice play to his left and strong throw to Durna for the third out.
UC San Diego broke things open with a pair of three spots in the sixth and seventh. Whitcomb's walk ignited the sixth-inning rally. Chico State later walked Eliopulos intentionally to fill the bags. At 0-for-7 for the series, redshirt sophomore designated hitter Steven Schuknecht laced a two-out, two-run single up the middle. Brigman followed by poking an opposite-field RBI single to right.
Clarke, who had flown out deep to center to open the fourth, made sure in the seventh, losing one deep to left with Stewart and Whitcomb on base through a leadoff single and hit-by-pitch. It was his 10th on the season to pull him even with Eliopulos atop the team chart, and CCAA leader UC San Diego's first long ball of the series.
Rupe, Jr. (2-2), went the entire 7.0 innings and gave up two runs on six hits and one walk. He struck out seven, beginning with the first batter he faced after going down 2-0 to start. Rupe, Jr., then cleaned up a one-out single by inducing a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play to notch the shutdown frame. He also got the first batter swinging and dodged a one-out single for a shutdown second, through a pair of flyouts.
Rupe, Jr., opened the third with a first-pitch groundout and a three-pitch strikeout, and ducked around a two-out single by inducing another easy grounder. His lone walk came on a close call on a 3-2 offering to begin the fourth, but catcher Michael Palos helped him out with a perfect strike right in front of the bag to Beck at second to get the dangerous Cameron Santos. A flyout and strikeout got Rupe, Jr., out of that one.
The sixth, like the first, ended with a 4-6-3 double play on the heels of a one-out single. Rupe, Jr., arguably saved his best for last, putting the finishing touches on his complete game in style by striking out the side in order, all swinging, for his only perfect frame. In all, he turned away six of seven leadoff hitters. The 7.0 innings matched his career long. He has logged back-to-back wins in his return to the starting rotation.
Durna was 2-for-5 with a run and RBI. Eliopulos was 2-for-4 with an intentional walk, run and two RBI. Clarke was 3-for-5 with a double, home run, three runs and four RBI. Whitcomb did not register an official at-bat, winding up 0-for-0 with a season-high four walks, a hit-by-pitch, and three runs scored. Brigman finished 3-for-4 with a double, run and RBI. Schuknecht had the two RBI and Stewart scored a pair.
Senior right-hander Andrew Schantz (2-3) allowed four runs, three of them earned, on five hits and two walks over 1.2 innings. He struck out one.
Triton Notes: Alex Eliopulos and Zander Clarke are the only two Tritons to start all 32 games ... Game One: Kyle Lucke drew his fourth straight mound start ... Shay Whitcomb's single to lead off the first extended his reached-base streak to 30 games ... It marked a fourth straight contest in which Whitcomb extended that streak with a first-inning hit ... Justin Beck's leadoff double in the seventh was his sixth of the year and second of the series ... Game Two: Whitcomb's leadoff walk in the first extended his reached-base streak, as he has started his college career by getting on base in each of his first 31 contests ... It marked a fifth straight game in which Whitcomb extended that streak in his first plate appearance ... Clarke's first-inning double was his sixth ... Whitcomb had walked three times twice this season before the four in today's nightcap, the season high by any Triton ... Beck's fourth-inning bunt single extended his reached-base streak to 18 games ... Michael Palos' fourth-inning caught stealing was his second in six attempts ... Chico State's Cameron Santos had entered the series 13-for-14 in steals, but is now 0-for-2 on the weekend after Nick Kitzmann (last night) and Palos threw him out ... Keenan Brigman's leadoff double in the fifth before being cut down trying to extend it into a triple, was his fifth ... UC San Diego reached double figures in runs for the 10th time this year ... The Tritons have reached 20 wins in 17 consecutive seasons, and all seven campaigns now under head coach Eric Newman ... Clarke and Eliopulos are now 1-2 in the CCAA in RBI with 43 and 42, respectively … The complete game by Jack Rupe, Jr., was the first by a Triton in 2018.