LA JOLLA, Calif. - Returning stars Tyler Durna and Alex Eliopulos combined for two home runs, a triple, and eight RBI to power No. 7 University of California San Diego past Concordia University Irvine, 10-3, in a non-conference baseball contest Saturday night at Triton Ballpark.
UC San Diego looked much better at the plate and on mound after a tough 11-1 loss in its home opener to No. 4 Colorado Mesa on Friday afternoon. The Tritons moved to 2-1, with Concordia falling to 2-5. The Eagles had dropped a 9-8 decision in 10 innings to Mesa (2-1) earlier in the day, relinquishing an 8-5 advantage after seven.
Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) hit two home runs in a single game for the first time in his Triton career, as the redshirt junior third baseman provided a two-run shot during a four-run sixth that broke open a close game, and then absolutely hammered a 1-0 offering with two away in the eighth, deep into the La Jolla night in right field. His three hits, three runs and four RBI all matched his Triton bests.
Durna went 4-for-5, producing hits in each of his first four plate appearances, with a two-run triple, one run scored, and like Eliopulos, four RBI of his own to equal his career high. The junior first baseman out of Chino Hills is now 8-for-13 on the year.
On the mound, junior left-hander Preston Mott and sophomore right-hander Ted Stuka effectively split the game in half, each notching a career-high eight strikeouts. Mott exited one out short of qualifying for the decision, going 4.2 frames with three runs against him on seven hits, and no walks. Stuka (1-0) took it the rest of the way, meaning a career-long 4.1 innings, of the shutout variety. He allowed four hits and three walks, and picked up his first collegiate decision.
The Tritons overturned a 1-0 deficit with a pair in the third. The frame began with a walk to freshman shortstop Shay Whitcomb. Durna hit a hot shot through the right-side shift and Eagle second baseman, and wound up on second as Whitcomb was thrown out at third. A groundout moved Durna 90 feet closer to tying the game, before Eliopulos dropped an RBI single to the left of center field, with Miller the centerfielder playing well over toward right. Second baseman Chris Martin then had Aaron Kim's high popup click off his glove, with Eliopulos alertly advancing all the way home.
Three more runs came in the home fourth. A Justin Beck walk and Nick Kitzmann single put Tritons at the corners with one away, with a wild pitch advancing both for a 3-1 lead. Whitcomb was hit, and another wild pitch put two men in scoring position. That's when Durna roped an opposite-field, two-run triple into the gap in left center.
The sixth inning was the key. Only trailing 5-3, Concordia loaded the bags on a one-out single, fielding error and two-out walk. Beck actually made a real nice pivot and throw to get the second out at second base on a fielder's choice, ahead of that free pass. Stuka then went 2-0 to Tominaga, the No. 3 batter in the Eagle order, meaning six straight tosses outside the zone. Second-year Triton pitching coach Justin James came out for a visit, and on his very next throw, Stuka induced a grounder to Durna, the 6-foot-7 Newport Beach product ranging over to cover the bag.
UC San Diego came right out and struck for four to procure a significant cushion, sending nine to the plate. Durna came up for a second straight time with Kitzmann at third and Whitcomb at second, and again he picked both of them up, this time chopping a two-run single over the first baseman's head. Kitzmann had reached via error ahead of Whitcomb's double down the left field line. Zander Clarke replaced Durna at first through a fielder's choice, and Eliopulos lost a 2-0 pitch to right field.
Concordia's runs came on solo blasts by Bailey Collins to lead off the second and Dillon Millar with one gone in the fifth, and subsequent back-to-back doubles in that same frame by Haloa Dudoit and Davis Tominaga. The Eagles actually managed to out-hit the Tritons, 11-10. Starter Cade Temple (0-2) took the loss.
Mott struck out the side around an infield error in the third, and had at least one punch-out in all five innings in which he worked. He also made a tough stab at a comeback liner to open the fifth. Two batters after the Collins home run in the second, Tyler Barry hit a hard shot off the top of the wall, but was held to just a long single thanks in part also to leftfielder Steven Schuknecht's effort.
Stuka in fact walked his first batter, but with Eagles at first and second, got a flyout to advance out of the fifth. He breezed through a 1-2-3 seventh on two swinging strikeouts and a groundout to Eliopulos. Stuka bookended two more strikeouts around two singles and a flyout in the eighth, and fanned the side in the ninth, all swinging, after a walk and a single as Concordia sent up five pinch-hitters. All eight of Stuka's eight strikeout victims were waving.
Durna and Eliopulos together accounted for seven of the Tritons' 10 hits on the night.
UC San Diego concludes this busy home weekend with a pair of games at Triton Ballpark on East Campus in La Jolla on Sunday, Feb. 11. The Tritons first get a rematch with No. 4 Colorado Mesa at 11 a.m., and then will face off once more with Concordia at approximately 3 p.m. Parking is free. Those unable to attend can view both games on UCSDtritons.tv, in high definition, for a combined $5.99 fee.
Triton Notes: Redshirt sophomore Keenan Brigman made his 2018 season debut as the starter in center field, and beat out an infield single in his first plate appearance in the second ... Preston Mott had twice previously fanned seven opposing batters.
TYLER DURNA! Ropes this oppo 2-R TRIPLE into LC gap to score Kitzmann and Whitcomb for 5-1 lead B4! A wild pitch had sent Beck home for 3rd #UCSD run. Durn 3-3 in game, 7-11 on young season. #GoTritons #CCAAbsb #d2bsb pic.twitter.com/vd0Xuv2et6— UCSD Triton Baseball (@UCSDbsb) February 11, 2018