LA JOLLA, Calif. - The 26th-ranked University of California San Diego baseball team rolled to two more wins over crosstown foe Cal State San Marcos, 12-3 and 9-2 in seven innings, to sweep a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) doubleheader Saturday on Senior Day at Triton Ballpark.
Combined with hefty decisions of 15-0 and 11-1 on Thursday and Friday in San Marcos, UC San Diego thus posted a four-game series sweep, its third over the last four weeks.
With the pair of wins on Saturday, UC San Diego wrapped up the regular season at 34-15 overall and 30-14 in the CCAA. Cal State San Marcos concluded its 2018 campaign at 20-30 overall and 15-29 in league play. The 30 CCAA wins are the Tritons' most under seventh-year head coach Eric Newman, and second-most since joining the conference for the 2001 season, topped only by the 35-5 mark in 2010, when they wound up as national runners-up.
Despite the day's success in La Jolla, UC San Diego fell narrowly short of its first CCAA regular-season title since 2012. No. 15 Cal State Monterey Bay (36-14, 30-14) rallied from an 8-2 deficit with five runs in the sixth and six more in the eighth, to win 13-8 at Cal State East Bay in its regular-season finale. The Tritons needed a doubleheader sweep and Otter loss to be outright champions. The two teams finished with identical conference marks, and split their head-to-head series. The second tiebreaker, combined winning percentage against the remainder of the CCAA Championship field, favors CSUMB, which was 10-6 (.625) against the other four sides, to 7-9 (.4375) for UC San Diego. Co-champions are not crowned.
As the No. 2 seed for the 2018 CCAA Championship, the Tritons will open the six-team, double-elimination tournament against fifth-seeded Cal State LA on Wednesday, May 9, at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton. The tentative start time is 3 p.m.
Both winning decisions on the mound Saturday went to fourth-year senior right-handers and San Diego natives on Senior Day. Jack Rupe, Jr. (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS), tossed 5.2 innings in the opener, allowing three runs, just one of them earned, on five hits and one walk, striking out six. He moved to 5-2 with a third successive winning start. Cameron Kurz (Encinitas/La Costa Canyon HS) then moved to 4-1 following his relief stint in the nightcap, as he registered the final out of the fifth with Cougars at first and second trying to add to a 2-1 edge, ahead of the Tritons' five-run outburst in the home half. He fanned four over 2.1 shutout frames to close it out.
Offensively, UC San Diego generated its 21 runs through 27 hits, two of them home runs to give it nine for the series and a CCAA-leading 63 on the year, the second-best season total in the program's NCAA Division II history, since 2001. The Tritons are nine away from matching the school record of 72 during the 2007 campaign. They outscored the Cougars for the weekend, 47-6.
In addition to Kurz and Rupe, five more Triton seniors were recognized in between their final regular-season home games, in Justin Beck, Mitch Hickey, Jesse Moore, Michael Palos and Tom Simpson. All saw action on the day, except for Hickey, Thursday's mound starter. UC San Diego and Triton Ballpark do, however, remain as a potential venue for the NCAA Division II West Regional, to be announced May 13.
Game One - UCSD 12, CSUSM 3
Cal State San Marcos took its first lead of the series through a one-out Tyler Place triple and ensuing RBI groundout by its only other senior, USD transfer Aidan Stinnett, in the first.
The Tritons overturned that narrow deficit right away in the home half. Tyler Durna, Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) and Shay Whitcomb all hit to the opposite field, in the form of a one-out single to left center, two-out single through the left side, and two-run double into the gap in right center, respectively, for 2-1.
Two Triton errors began the third, but senior second baseman Justin Beck made an incredible play on the next pitch, diving to his left to snare a liner off Stinnett's bat, and getting up to cut down Place at first for the huge double play. Austin Ott did, however, still manage a two-out RBI single up the middle for the unearned equalizer.
UC San Diego broke that 2-2 deadlock with a six-run third inning, sending 11 men to the plate. The rally was ignited by a one-out hit-by-pitch to Rj Prince. Blake Baumgartner walked on four tosses, and on back-to-back pitches, Nick Kitzmann dropped an RBI double in front of an unsure Ott in center, and Brandon Stewart slapped an RBI single through the left side. Durna beat the throw back on his right-sided grounder for an RBI fielder's choice, and Zander Clarke drilled an opposite-field RBI double to right center on an 0-2 offering. The scoring was capped by Eliopulos' 12th home run of the season, a two-run shot that snuck just over the wall in right.
A leadoff walk and another fielding miscue led to the visitors getting one of those scores back, once again of the unearned variety, in the fourth. The teams ended up trading single tallies in that inning, though, as Clarke sent an RBI single, again to the opposite field, through the right side with two away. Baumgartner had opened with a single, and Stewart walked with one out.
Stinnett began the fifth with a sharp single to left, but Ott obliged the Tritons by hitting into a routine 6-4-3 twin killing on the next pitch.
Whitcomb walked to start the home fifth and the Tritons tacked on two more on Beck's eighth home run of 2018 and second of the series, off the scoreboard in right.
Rupe and freshman Cameron Leonard combined on the first perfect frame by either side in the sixth, with a swinging strikeout, groundout and flyout. Rupe got a rousing ovation from the home crowd as he exited after the groundout.
A pinch-hit, first-pitch double into the right field corner by redshirt freshman Aaron Kim with one away, and RBI single up the middle by Durna with two outs, accounted for the final run in the eighth.
Eliopulos wound up 3-for-5 with his home run, a walk, two runs and two RBI. Beck went 1-for-3 with the home run, two walks, one run and two RBI. Durna and Clarke each were 2-for-5 with two RBI. Clarke had a double and two runs, and Durna one walk with one run. Whitcomb went 2-for-4 with a double, walk, run and two RBI.
Game Two - UCSD 9, CSUSM 2 (7)
Cal State San Marcos took an early 2-0 lead as their first two batters, Place and Cabot Van Til, hit home runs to right field, but UC San Diego produced a single tally in the third and gained the advantage with a five-run fifth.
That first frame could have been worse, but junior right-hander Jonah Dipoto struck out Joseph Bahna, and Palos fired to Beck to complete the double play. It was Palos' fourth caught stealing in nine opportunities to show off the arm, getting Stinnett.
The Triton run in the third came thanks to a one-out Stewart single, two-out Clarke hit-by-pitch, and RBI single to center by Eliopulos on an 0-2 pitch.
CSUSM threatened to surge ahead in its fourth, loading the bases on a walk and single to lead off, and after a pitching change and strikeout, another single to left. With the count full, junior right-hander Kyle Lucke induced the 1-2-3 double play at the perfect time, fielding his position cleanly with Palos also making no mistake to end it.
Palos began the fifth by accepting a five-pitch free pass. Stewart tried to lay down the sacrifice, but Stinnett picked up the bunt and looked to second to get the lead man, with no Cougars there. At that point, he had no play on the speedy Stewart. Durna in turn also tried to lay down a bunt, but instead took four outside the strike zone to fill the bags. That was a bad recipe for the visitors with Clarke up to bat, and he wasted no time in sending a first-pitch, two-run single to left center. Eliopulos followed with a blooped RBI single in between three fielders in right center. With the bases later full again and a new pitcher on the hill, Prince nicely beat out a throw to score Clarke on the fielder's choice. Moore knocked in the fifth run on an RBI single up the middle.
The final three runs in the sixth were courtesy of a lined, opposite-field single to left by Durna, a third RBI single in the contest by Eliopulos, and a double-play ball of Whitcomb's bat. Stewart's opposite-field double on another 0-2 pitch led it off.
Kurz had frozen Place with a wicked slider on the outside to end the top of the sixth with runners at first and second following successive two-out singles. He actually struck out the side, having turned away the first two Cougars swinging.
Eliopulos went 3-for-4 with three RBI singles and a run. Stewart was 3-for-3 with a double, sacrifice and three runs. Clarke finished 2-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch, two runs and two RBI. Durna was 1-for-3 with a walk, two runs and an RBI.
Triton Notes: Alex Eliopulos is the only Triton to start or even appear in all 49 games ... Brandon Stewart batted leadoff and Shay Whitcomb fifth in both games, making it five times this season and four games in a row ... Whitcomb extended his 2018 team-best hit streak to 14 games with his first-inning double in the first game and second-inning double in the nightcap ... Whitcomb's two doubles on the day give him 11 ... Stewart had a sacrifice hit in each contest and still leads the team with eight ... Zander Clarke (65) and Eliopulos (62) remain 1-2 in the CCAA in RBI ... UC San Diego won 14 of its last 16 games to end the regular season ... The Tritons matched their season high of three double plays turned in the first game, and had five on the day, giving them 15 twin killings over the last 10 contests ... Game One: UC San Diego scored in double digits for the 19th time this season, and third straight game ... UC San Diego was charged with a season-high four errors ... Junior left-hander Nick Senicka, who has been rehabilitating an injury to this point, made his Triton debut in the ninth and after a walk, struck out CSUSM senior star Tyler Place swinging to end the game ... Game Two: Stewart was caught stealing for the first time this season in the first inning, after nine successful attempts.