Photo by: Derrick Tuskan
Junior newcomer Alex Athanacio produced his first multiple-hit game as a Triton and drove in three runs.

Seven Runs for Seventh Straight: No. 10 Tritons Get Past Cal State San Marcos in Series Opener

UC San Diego

LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 10 University of California San Diego baseball team broke a 2-2 deadlock with a four-run fifth and got past city rival Cal State San Marcos, 7-3, in the opener of a four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series at Triton Ballpark on Thursday night.

With a seventh straight victory, second-place UC San Diego improved to 14-4 overall and 9-4 in the CCAA. Cal State San Marcos dropped a fourth successive contest and moved to 11-12 overall and 7-10 in league play.

Junior rightfielder Alex Athanacio, a transfer from Cañada College, went 3-for-4 with a double, run scored and a career-high three RBI, producing his first multiple-hit game as a Triton.

Triton starter Preston Mott (3-1) was perhaps not at his best but wriggled out of three of the four jams he got in and stuck around long enough to be the beneficiary of that big fifth. The senior left-hander went the first 5.0 innings and allowed two runs, one of them earned, on four hits and a season-high four walks, striking out five.

UC San Diego struck for a pair in the second via RBI doubles. Redshirt sophomore catcher Aaron Kim led off with a six-pitch walk, taking a pair of 2-2 tosses outside the zone. A groundout, with Keenan Brigman narrowly being called out after third baseman Joseph Bahna had trouble handling the ball, moved Kim to second. Athanacio came through with an opposite-field double into the gap in right center. With two away, freshman second baseman Ryan McNally's first collegiate extra-base hit came in the form of a first-pitch RBI double into the gap in left center for 2-0.

CSUSM tied it in the fifth. Mott walked Näshéa Diggs for the second straight plate appearance for starters, and Whitcomb couldn't come up with a grounder up the middle that could very well have been a double-play ball. A wild pitch moved both Cougars into scoring position. Mott then had Austin Ott on a two-strike count, but the senior centerfielder poked an opposite-field RBI single through the right side anyway. Grant Buck lifted a sacrifice fly out to center for 2-2.

The Tritons quickly flipped that momentum back in their favor, needing a solitary hit to push four runs across in the home half, capitalizing on three costly errors by the visitors. Redshirt senior third baseman Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) reached with one away on the first of those miscues. Redshirt sophomore first baseman Blake Baumgartner drew a walk, and a second error on a fielder's choice grounder left the bases full. Kim was hit with sophomore starter Garrett Apker's (2-2) next offering to force Eliopulos in with the go-ahead score. Brigman's lineout to Ott in center served as a sacrifice fly for 4-2, and with two away, Athanacio got enough of one to poke a two-run single right in between Bahna and Diggs the shortstop, making it 6-2.

The teams traded single tallies in the sixth to round out the scoring. Senior right-hander Jonah Dipoto took over for Mott and missed registering the shutdown frame, as back-to-back singles began it. With Cougars at the corners, Kim fired to McNally for his first caught stealing of 2019 after seven successful tries by opponents, but Domenic Antonacci's sacrifice fly pulled one back, 6-3.

McNally accepted a four-pitch walk from the new CSUSM pitcher to open the bottom half, advanced to second on a failed pickoff attempt that went down as a fourth Cougar error, and scored easily on Whitcomb's opposite-field double to deep right. The 2018 CCAA Freshman of the Year was cut down trying to extend the hit into a triple.

Prior to the fifth, Mott registered a 1-2-3 second with two strikeouts preceding a groundout to Whitcomb. In the three frames around that, he put two Cougars on base, and stranded all six. The Clovis product fanned Antonacci and Griffin Teisher in succession to end the fourth after a one-out walk and single.

Dipoto went 3.0 innings and gave up the one run on four hits, without a walk, He struck out a pair. Fellow senior right-hander Kyle Lucke turned in a perfect ninth, ending the game by getting senior rightfielder Cabot Van Til, second in the league with now a .433 average, swinging.

Whitcomb finished 2-for-5 with his two doubles and the RBI. Kim was 1-for-2 with a walk, hit-by-pitch, two runs and an RBI. McNally went 2-for-3 with a double, walk, run and RBI. Baumgartner was 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored.

Van Til, Ott and Danny Johnson had two hits apiece for the Cougars. Ott had to be run for after pulling up during a one-out single off Dipoto in the seventh.

Two defensive plays stood out for UC San Diego, both leaping grabs by infielders of tweeners between liners and pop-ups. Whitcomb got up in shallow left center to deny Teisher of a leadoff hit in the third. Baumgartner's was more impressive, also on a leadoff man and this time Van Til, in the seventh with a backhanded gem.

UC San Diego and Cal State San Marcos continue their series with another primetime affair in La Jolla on Friday night, March 15. First pitch at Triton Ballpark on East Campus is again set for 6 p.m. Those unable to attend can watch a free video stream on UCSDtritons.tv Parking permits are required.

Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 13-3, and has won nine straight meetings since the 2017 season ... Alex Eliopulos started his 94th straight game, all at third base ... Preston Mott drew his sixth start of 2019 and 49th of his four-year career, keeping him alone in fourth for at least the program's Division II history ... Alex Athanacio's third-inning double was his third ... Shay Whitcomb's second career two-double effort gave him a team-best six on the year, with four in the last six games ... UC San Diego is 13-2 at home ... This now matches the Tritons' longest win streak of 2019, having bookended a four-game slide with a pair of seven-gamers.

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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For complete coverage and information regarding UC San Diego Athletics, follow the Tritons online at UCSDtritons.com and through social media on Twitter (@UCSDtritons), Instagram (@ucsdtritons) and Facebook (UCSDtritons). For more information on UC San Diego Baseball, follow on Twitter (@UCSDbsb) and Instagram (@ucsd_baseball). Head coach Eric Newman is also on Twitter (@CoachEricNewman).

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