No. 8 UC San Diego Sweeps Doubleheader With Toros on Senior Day for Series Victory; Magic Number at 1
LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 8 University of California San Diego baseball team took a pair of 7-4 decisions to sweep a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) twin bill over Cal State Dominguez Hills on Senior Day Sunday at Triton Ballpark.
First-place UC San Diego thus rallied from having lost Friday's opener in Carson, 7-5, to win the four-game series between Southern California rivals, 3-1, for a third consecutive season. The Tritons also achieved win No. 30 in the process, improving to 31-10 overall and 26-10 in the CCAA. Eleventh-place Cal State Dominguez Hills, idle in the final week of the regular season, concluded its 2019 campaign at 16-30 overall and 15-29 in league play. UC San Diego won Saturday's date in Carson, 6-1.
UC San Diego began the day with the ability to clinch a first CCAA regular-season title since 2012, UC San Diego head coach Eric Newman's first year in charge. The Tritons needed to sweep their doubleheader, which they did, and have second-place Cal State Monterey Bay lose its series finale at Cal State San Bernardino. The Otters trailed 7-5 through five innings, before storming to a 14-8 victory. UC San Diego's magic number is thus down to one, and the Tritons need to win just one of their final four games to earn that banner. CSUMB has completed its regular-season schedule. UC San Diego is already assured of no worse than the No. 2 seed at the CCAA Tournament.
All eight Triton seniors, Keenan Brigman, Jonah Dipoto, Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS), Kyle Lucke, Preston Mott, R.J. Prince Christopher Schasteen and Steven Schuknecht, saw action over the course of the day, and were honored in between contests. Eliopulos homered in the first game, Mott earned the winning decision in relief in the nightcap, and Lucke shut the door twice for a pair of saves.
UC San Diego will take Monday off from practice and fly to the Bay Area this Wednesday night, May 1. The Tritons round out the regular-season schedule there in Hayward at seventh-place Cal State East Bay (22-24, 19-21 CCAA) with another four-game series, beginning Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Pioneer Baseball Field.
Game One - No. 8 UCSD 7, CSUDH 4
UC San Diego answered a three-run third inning with a crooked number of its own in the bottom half, of four tallies. That gave the Tritons a 5-3 edge which they preserved.
The game began with a Prince single into center and a bombed Whitcomb double three-quarters up the wall in straightaway center, 400 feet away. Eliopulos' right-sided RBI groundout put the hosts on the board, but that was all for UC San Diego.
The Toros collectively hit for the cycle in that three-run third, with a Kai Gomez one-out single preceding an RBI Jose Jimenez triple, Pierson Loska's league-best 15th home run deep to left, a pitching change, and a Jeremy Ciolek double.
The Tritons' response began with back-to-back infield singles by seniors Schasteen and Prince. Schasteen was then picked off of second, but Whitcomb picked up his teammates, lining an RBI double into the left field corner. Eliopulos followed with an opposite-field, RBI single into left center on a 1-2 pitch. That's when the big blow came, redshirt sophomore first baseman Blake Baumgartner's opposite-field, two-run home run over the wall in right on an 0-2 offering.
The sides traded single tallies in the fifth. Jimenez started the Toro half with a single, moved to third on two wild pitches, and scored on Ciolek's RBI single to left.
Eliopulos needed one swing of the bat to get that run back, finding the scoreboard in right center for his fourth long ball to begin the home fifth, again on a 1-2 toss.
Baumgartner's second blast of the game led off the eighth, that one well gone to left this time. It marked his first college two-home-run effort, and was his eighth of 2019.
True sophomore right-hander Noah Conlon (1-2) picked up the fourth winning decision of his young career, in relief. He went 3.2 innings and allowed one run on three hits and a walk, striking out three. Junior Luke Mattson had drawn his team-leading 10th start and gone the first 2.1 frames.
Conlon's outing began with a double in that three-run third, but he left Ciolek stranded at second through a flyout to Schasteen, and his first strikeout.
Dipoto, whose father Jerry Dipoto, the general manager of the Seattle Mariners, surprised him and was in attendance on Senior Day, fired two shutout frames in the seventh and eighth. He ducked leadoff singles both times. In the seventh, it was a called third strike on Jimenez, with redshirt sophomore catcher Aaron Kim firing to second baseman Michael Fuhrman to get Gomez and complete the double play. Fuhrman made the acrobatic tag to give Kim his fifth caught stealing on 18 attempts.
Lucke needed six pitches, two to each batter, for the save in the ninth, inducing two flyouts to Schasteen around a groundout to Eliopulos, who made a nice play to his left.
Both seniors had stellar defensive efforts earlier in the contest. Eliopulos tracked a foul ball off Joe Canepa's bat to end the fifth, going to ground to make the grab as he approached the railing down the left field line. Schasteen then got to a fly ball tailing away from him toward the gap in right center, on a dead sprint as he neared the wall.
Baumgartner finished 2-for-4 with the two home runs, two runs and three RBI. Eliopulos was 3-for-4 with his shot, and two runs and three RBI of his own. Prince and Whitcomb added two hits apiece. The Nos. 1-4 hitters in Newman's order combined to go 9-for-15 with all seven runs and all seven RBI. Schasteen had the only other hit.
Game Two - No. 8 UCSD 7, CSUDH 4 (7)
UC San Diego struck for one in the first, two in the second and three in the third before taking its foot off the pedal a bit and surviving over the remainder.
The big blow and difference was ultimately Fuhrman's at-bat in the third. With men at first and second and nobody out through a leadoff Eliopulos walk and ensuing Baumgartner hit-by-pitch, the freshman lined a single right back up the middle, and centerfielder Gomez let the ball go right under his glove, and effectively to the wall. Fuhrman sped all the way around to score, and was credited with an RBI single, with a three-base error. That doubled a 3-0 bulge.
The Toros put together back-to-back two-run innings in the fifth and sixth to make for a slightly nervous ending, until Lucke took the stage again and worked efficiently past a fortuitous first-pitch Jimenez single to right for his seventh save. The runner was stranded at third, with the right-hander now tied for third in the CCAA in saves.
UC San Diego could only answer with a single run, but a big one at that in the sixth. Schasteen worked a six-pitch walk with one away, and Prince singled to the opposite field in right center on a 1-2 toss to put men at the corners. After a popout, Schasteen rumbled across on a costly wild pitch unleashed by CSUDH reliever Connor Dreyer.
Mott (6-1), a fourth-year left-hander, was the winner in relief of sophomore right-hander Cameron Leonard, who looked fine in just the first inning as he continues his recovery from a summer injury. Leonard survived a pair of two-out singles in that opener as Domenic Colacchio flew out to Brigman in left center.
Mott handled the next four, with three zeroes ahead of a two-run fifth, including a perfect third and fourth. He wiped out a four-pitch walk to his very first batter to lead off the second, thanks to a 6-4-3 double play and his first of two strikeouts. All four Toro tallies went against Mott, on three hits and the lone free pass.
Redshirt junior Blaine Jarvis (0.1) and Michael Mitchell (0.2), both right-handers navigated the two-run sixth after Mott's exit. Mitchell, a true freshman from Northern California, entered with two men on and the tying run at first base, and got out of the jam through an infield popout and flyout to Brigman down the left field line.
UC San Diego had scored via two-out rally in the first as Eliopulos sliced his 11th double to the opposite field, all the way to the wall in the gap in left center, and scored on Baumgartner's RBI single, also to the opposite field, to right on a 1-2 pitch.
The two-run second began with Nick Kitzmann reaching base. In his first plate appearance since April 7 due to various physical and medical misfortunes, the Solvang product naturally was hit by the second pitch he saw. He paced the Tritons in that category in 2018 with 21, and currently shares the team lead with Schuknecht at eight each. The redshirt junior catcher advanced to third on a perfect hit-and-run as redshirt freshman designated hitter Logan White, Jr., pulled a single through the vacated hole on the right side, and scored on Brigman's third sacrifice fly of the season. Schasteen's single preceded Prince's flyout, but Whitcomb came through in the clutch with a two-out RBI knock through the left side. Schasteen was actually caught off second by the Toro relay, but was able to get in a rundown long enough to allow White to cross home plate for a 3-0 advantage.
Whitcomb later made an impressive defensive play in the fifth, diving to his right to corral a grounder before firing to Fuhrman from his knees to get an out at second.
Whitcomb, Eliopulos and Schasteen wound up with two hits apiece. It was Schasteen's second multiple-hit performance as a Triton, both coming over a nine-day span.
Triton Notes: Alex Eliopulos started his 116th and 117th straight games, all at third base ... Eliopulos, first baseman Blake Baumgartner and shortstop Shay Whitcomb are the only Tritons to start all 41 games in 2019 ... The Tritons are 22-4 at home ... The Tritons are now 30-4 in 2019 when scoring at least three runs, and 20-2 when hitting a home run ... Game One: True freshman infielder Ryan McNally made his first collegiate start in left field ... Whitcomb now has 22 doubles on the year, tied for the league lead, and 34 for his career, with eight two-double games as a Triton and seven this season, all coming over the last 23 contests ... The Tritons reached the 30-win mark for the sixth straight year, and seventh time in head coach Eric Newman's eight years in charge Game Two: Senior rightfielder R.J. Prince was in the leadoff spot for the fifth straight game ... Redshirt freshman Logan White, Jr., earned a seventh start in a row as the designated hitter.
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 37 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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