CHICO, Calif. - UC San Diego scored twice in the sixth to break a 1-1 deadlock and earn the split of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) baseball doubleheader with No. 3 league leader Chico State Saturday at Nettleton Stadium.
The split puts UCSD at 22-19 overall and 16-15 in the CCAA. The Tritons sit two games back of fourth-place Sonoma State, which swept its twin bill at home Saturday over Cal State L.A. Chico State, atop the standings by a single game, is now 31-8 overall and 24-7 in league play. The Tritons had taken the opener Friday, 7-5.
Game one of the doubleheader looked eerily similar to Friday night’s series opener. Danny Susdorf began a second straight contest with a hit to left, this time a single after a double Friday. Garrett Tuck then put down a bunt, and just like the third inning one night prior, he reached safely on a Wildcat error as Susdorf advanced. Richard Seigel in turn put down a bunt, and though it appeared as though Susdorf may get cut down as the lead runner, Chico State pitcher Troy Neiman threw the ball away for the second successive play, this time into left field as Susdorf and Tuck both scored. Nick La Face showed bunt and a rattled Neiman threw it past his catcher for a wild pitch, enabling Seigel to trot home from third on La Face’s sacrifice fly moments later for a 3-0 lead.
All three runs were unearned for the nation’s fourth-best defense entering the weekend, after the Tritons had three unearned runs Friday off of three errors.
After junior right-hander Blake Fassler got through a 1-2-3 first frame, the Tritons kept the pressure on Neiman and Chico State via bunt. Scott Liske beat out his bunt back to the pitcher, ahead of Brett Levy’s successful sacrifice. A third straight bunt in the inning and fifth already in the game, by Spencer Frazier, moved Liske to third. UCSD cashed in on its strategy as Susdorf then blooped an RBI single just in front of a diving Blake Gibbs in center for a 4-0 bulge.
Chico State got its first hit to begin its half of the second through Cody Webber, but Fassler quickly cleaned that up by coaxing a 4-6-3 double-play ball from Jon Peters. The Wildcats put their first batter on in the third as well, with Ryne Clark moving to second on a wild pitch, but Fassler threw a breaking ball in the dirt to set Jake Bailey down swinging. Clark then swiped third and scored on a Cody Slader sacrifice fly into shallow left to put the home side on the board, 4-1.
The ‘Cats loaded the bases with one away in the fourth as Gibbs was plunked, Webber slid a single through the left side and Peters followed to right center. A chopped infield single to third by Austin Prott brought in one run, with a fielder’s choice and a two-out RBI single by Bailey leveling matters at 4-4.
UCSD went right back to work as sophomore catcher Brett Levy took a 1-2 offering from Neiman to open the fifth and smacked it off the top of the wall in left for his second career triple and first extra-base hit of the campaign. Frazier’s ground ball to shortstop meant a first RBI of the season for the junior second baseman as the Tritons regained the slim edge, 5-4.
Back-to-back base hits by the top of the order, Eric Angerer and Pierson Jeremiah, put the hosts in business again to open the bottom of the fifth. An infield throwing error, UCSD’s first of the series, on a hard-shot fielder’s choice off the bat of Gibbs allowed both runners to score for Chico State’s first lead of the afternoon, 6-5. With ‘Cats at the corners and one away, Kilbury replaced Fassler and got the ground ball he needed, only for Prott to beat the relay at first for an RBI fielder’s choice and 7-5.
After a pair of two-out walks around a pitching change in the sixth, a third Chico error allowed Justin Rahn to score UCSD’s sixth run.
A leadoff walk drawn by Liske and pinch-hit sacrifice by Corbin Wirta put the tying run at second for the Tritons as senior left-hander Jeremy Perez came on to match up with freshman left-handed pinch-hitter Andrew Hobson. UCSD in turn sent right-hander James Mossholder to the plate, with the senior sending Perez’s first pitch to right for a single, but lined so hard that Liske held at third.
The Cats’ closer, Chris Rodriguez, entered the fray to face Susdorf at the top of the UCSD order, and one of the fastest players in the CCAA was narrowly doubled up at first to end the game, 5-4-3 on the twin killing.
Fassler (4-2) allowed seven runs, five of them earned, on eight hits over 4.1 innings, striking out three with one walk. David Hart retired the first five batters he faced in the sixth and seventh with a strikeout, popout and three groundouts before a line-drive comebacker off Webber’s bat hit him and forced a third change. Adrian Orozco got the next four outs, also all on the infield.
Susdorf was 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI. UCSD scored its six runs on just five hits.
Neiman (7-2) gave up six runs, just two of them earned, on four hits and two walks over 5.2 frames. The senior right-hander struck out six, two of them in a 1-2-3 third and another to wrap up a perfect fourth as he retired six in succession. Sean Martin tossed 2.2 hitless innings in relief with a pair of punch-outs. Rodriguez picked up his fourth save.
UCSD struck first as Rahn doubled to lead off the second and scored on a one-out lined shot through the middle by Liske.
On the mound, Cruz made it through the first two frames letting up a hit in each. Chico State loaded the bases with two gone in the third on a single, walk and infield error, but a great play got Cruz and the Tritons out of it as Tuck dove to glove Peters’ grounder and Seigel dug out his throw at first.
The Wildcats finally got to Cruz in the fourth as Clark doubled to right center to plate Prott, who was hit by a pitch to lead off. The Tritons caught Clark stealing.
Susdorf opened the sixth with a single to center and promptly moved to second on a passed ball. In an uncanny development, Tuck reached for a third time on an error while bunting a runner over, as starter Mike Botelho threw the ball away trying to get Susdorf at third. Susdorf scored easily for the go-ahead run, with Tuck scooting all the way around to third with nobody out, ending Botelho’s day.
Seigel greeted Rodriguez with an RBI double off the right field wall for 3-1. La Face was walked intentionally before Rahn’s bunt got Seigel thrown out at third. Another pitching change by the ‘Cats preceded a double steal by Rahn and La Face. Two ground balls got the home side out of the inning with no further damage done.
After a one-out double by Peters in the home sixth, Kilbury snapped a called third strike on Prott and Zeman came on to get Clark to fly out to Susdorf.
In the seventh, Zeman set down Bailey looking and Slader swinging. Angerer singled through the left side to keep ‘Cats hopes alive, but Jeremiah grounded out straight back to Zeman to cap a team-best fourth save for the Triton right-hander.
Cruz (4-2) went 5.0 innings, giving up a run on four hits and a walk. He retired five straight ‘Cats from Clark’s fourth-inning double through a perfect fifth. The true freshman out of Chula Vista has now won each of his first four collegiate starts.
Rahn was 2-for-3 with his sixth double and a single on an 0-2 count in the fourth, and a run scored. Susdorf was an identical 2-for-3 with a run.
Botelho (4-3) allowed three runs on five hits and one walk over five-plus innings, striking out two. He retired four in a row at one point, including a 1-2-3 fifth.
Triton Notes: UCSD leads the series since 2001, 31-28, and has won nine of its last 11 in Chico … The Tritons’ five-game win streak at Nettleton was snapped with the 7-6 defeat … UCSD had swept three consecutive CCAA doubleheaders, all at home … The Tritons are 10-8 against ranked foes in 2013 … Nick La Face has started 98 straight games … La Face’s first-inning sacrifice fly in the first game was his second in as many contests at Chico State and fourth on the year … Richard Seigel has started 78 games in a row … Scott Liske made his eighth and ninth straight starts in right field … Blake Fassler drew his seventh start on the mound for UCSD in the first game … Fassler’s start was his shortest of the year, lasting 4.1 innings after going at least five complete in his first six … It was Fassler’s first decision since Mar. 16 after three straight no-decisions, and first loss since first start Mar. 2 at Cal Poly Pomona … Garrett Tuck’s two sacrifices on the day gave him three in the series and 10 for 2013 … Corbin Wirta’s ninth-inning sacrifice in game one was his second of the series and team-best 12th of the year, second-most in the league … Scott Zeman’s game-two appearance was his league-leading 25th.
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