SEASIDE, Calif. - Seven shutout innings from Blake Fassler and home runs by Scott Liske and Nick La Face propelled UC San Diego to a 6-1 victory over No. 8 Cal State Monterey Bay in game one of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) baseball doubleheader Saturday at the Otter Sports Complex.
Despite the Tritons taking a 3-0 lead on a first-inning home run by Justin Rahn, the host Otters came back for a 7-5 triumph in the seven-inning nightcap, as the teams split on the day.
Liske’s solo shot got things going for UCSD in game one. A five-run seventh ignited by a two-run blast by La Face backed Fassler’s near-flawless performance.
The results left UCSD at 26-23 overall and 20-19 in the CCAA. After seeing its streaks of 11 straight victories overall and 14 in a row at home come to an end following the first game, Cal State Monterey Bay sits at 36-13 and 28-11. As Chico State wrapped up its doubleheader sweep at home over Cal State L.A. later Saturday, the Otters clinched at least a share of the first regular-season CCAA title in program history, now a full game up on both the Wildcats and the Golden Eagles with one to play.
These teams close out the series and their 2013 regular-season schedules Sunday with a single game slated for an 11 a.m. start on Senior Day at the Otter Sports Complex. A CSUMB win means an outright league crown for the home side, while UCSD will look to earn the series split and make one final impression on the NCAA committee. Live stats can be accessed here.
The first game flew by in the early going as both starting pitchers were dialed in.
UCSD got on the scoreboard first as Liske worked the count full and lifted a solo home run to left center with one away in the opening frame. It was Liske’s fourth on the year, all coming over his last 11 games since Apr. 13.
That was all that either team would get for a while. Fassler faced the minimum through 4.2 innings, with just a one-out single in a five-pitch second getting wiped out as he induced a 4-3 double play off the bat of Jason Merjano. In both the first and third, Fassler got one strikeout and a pair of groundouts.
Merjano singled up the middle on a 1-2 offering with two gone in the fifth, but a fielder’s choice ground ball from Tommy George kept it from turning into anything.
Fassler’s counterpart, junior right-hander Chris Daniels, retired every other hitter he faced outside of Liske’s shot, also through the fourth. Daniels’ stretch of 11 straight retired batters was finally snapped as junior leftfielder Justin Rahn also worked a full count and drew the first walk of the afternoon by either side to open the fifth. Two groundouts after a La Face bunt left him stranded at second.
Liske sent a two-out double, this time toward the opposite gap in right center, on the first pitch he saw from Daniels in the sixth, around a trio of groundouts as the score remained 1-0 in favor of UCSD.
A one-out hit-by-pitch on an 0-2 count and two-out single up the middle around a couple of harmless fly balls put Otters at the corners in the sixth, before Fassler’s first walk of the contest loaded the bases for junior leftfielder Mark Hurley, CSUMB’s leading hitter and the two-time reigning CCAA Player of the Week. Fassler struck him out swinging on a 2-2 pitch.
The Tritons then gave their hurler plenty of insurance in the seventh as La Face sent another 3-2 offering from Daniels over the fence in left for a two-run home run. Fellow junior Dillon Moyer had taken the inning’s first pitch to left center for a single, moved to second on Rahn’s bunt and stolen third ahead of the long ball.
The UCSD rally continued as Garrett Tuck followed with a single up the middle and sophomore catcher Brett Levy was plunked. Both runners advanced into scoring position via double steal, with Tuck coming across on the Otter catcher’s throwing error and Levy taking third. An RBI single by Spencer Frazier ended Daniels’ day.
Liske continued his tear despite the change on the mound, pelting the gap in right center once more for a two-out RBI double and a 6-0 Triton bulge as Frazier sprinted all the way around. The Tritons sent eight men to the plate in the seventh.
David Garcia doubled off the wall in left to lead off the home half of the seventh, but Fassler kept him there with a flyout, strikeout and groundout.
Fassler (5-3) scattered four hits and a walk over his 7.0 shutout innings, matching his longest outing and marking his first start without a run given up. He struck out six, with fellow junior right-hander David Hart registering the final six outs.
Liske was 3-for-4 with his home run, two doubles, run scored and two RBI. He had just gone 4-for-5 with a home run, triple, four runs and six RBI in the series finale at Cal State San Bernardino seven days prior, and is hitting .368 (21-for-57) since taking over for good in right field on Apr. 5.
Daniels (6-4) went 6.1 innings and allowed six runs on six hits and one walk, striking out two. Garcia and Ronnie Fhurong each finished 2-for-4.
UCSD again used the long ball in inning number one to grab the lead at the outset, this time to greater effect as Rahn mashed a two-out, three-run effort to right center off of CCAA wins leader Jeff Owen. Danny Susdorf and Richard Seigel were standing on third and second, respectively, ahead of the home run after each had singled around a pair of outs.
Triton freshman Troy Cruz allowed a leadoff infield single in the home half, but negated it through a 6-3 double play and a called third strike.
The Otters did, however, then get all three runs back in the second, loading the bases with one away on a single on the heels of consecutive walks. A two-run Cannon Bernarding single preceded a sacrifice fly by Michael Lonsdale.
After Owen struck out the side in the third, CSUMB took its first lead of the day via two-out rally. Catcher’s interference kept the inning alive, and after George singled with both runners advancing into scoring position, Merjano doubled them in for 5-3.
The teams traded single runs through the fourth and the fifth. UCSD pulled one back when Rahn walked to lead off and scored from third after back-to-back two-out singles by Levy and Frazier. A two-out RBI single up the middle by Fhurong answered that score. Cruz caught Garcia looking for the third out with two men on.
The Tritons inched within one again at 6-5 in the fifth, as Liske opened with a single, moved to second on Seigel’s first sacrifice of the year, and scored on Rahn’s two-out single on a 3-2 count to right center.
Again, CSUMB had a response in its half. George worked a leadoff walk and advanced on home on consecutive hits by Merjano and Olson. Cruz, Adrian Orozco and Chad Rieser each notched an out to get out of it with no further damage done, but the Tritons were unable to muster any base-runners over the final two frames.
Cruz (5-3) went 4.1 innings, allowing seven runs, five of them earned, on 10 hits and three walks. He struck out four. Those were season-high totals in runs, hits and walks for the Chula Vista native, who took the loss after earning the winning decision in each of his first five collegiate pitching starts, today’s being his shortest.
Rahn was 2-for-2 with his home run, a walk, two runs and four RBI to match his single-game career high. Levy added a pair of hits.
Owen (11-1) wound up with yet another win while A.J. Quintero grabbed his league-leading ninth save with a perfect seventh against the top of the Triton order, ending the game with back-to-back strikeouts. Owen gave up five runs on eight hits and a walk over his six frames, fanning seven.
Merjano and Jesse Olson had two hits apiece, with Merjano and Bernarding both driving in a pair. Garcia and George each scored twice.
Triton Notes: UCSD still leads the all-time series, 25-9, since 2006, including 12-6 in Seaside … The Tritons are an even 11-11 against ranked teams in 2013 … Nick La Face has started 106 straight games … Richard Seigel has started 86 games in a row … Dillon Moyer has started 49 straight game at shortstop, and has remained in the cleanup spot for five successive contests … La Face, Seigel and Moyer are the only Tritons to have started all 49 games in 2013 … Scott Liske has made 17 straight starts in right field and extended his reached-base safely streak to 19 games in a row … Spencer Frazier has made 11 consecutive starts at second base … Blake Fassler drew his ninth mound start in a Triton uniform in the opener, and has gone at least 5.0 innings in all but one of them … Troy Cruz earned his sixth starting assignment on the hill in the nightcap … Liske’s game-one home run was the ninth of his career, and his two doubles gave him three this year … La Face’s home run in the first game was his fifth this season, second-most on the team, and 12th of his career … Brett Levy’s hit-by-pitch in game one was his ninth of 2013, tying him for the team lead with Liske … The game-one steals by Moyer, Levy and Garrett Tuck were their 15th, second and third of the season, respectively … La Face and Justin Rahn’s sacrifices in game one were their third and fourth, respectively … Rahn’s home run in the nightcap was his fourth of 2013 and of his career … With the victory in game one, UCSD reached the 20-win mark in league play for the 10th consecutive season and 11th time in 13 CCAA campaigns … Of 10 doubleheaders this year, all in conference, the Tritons swept four, split four, and were swept vs. Cal State Dominguez Hills and at Sonoma State.
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