LA JOLLA, Calif. - Senior outfielder Justin Rahn’s eight-RBI outburst topped numerous offensive superlatives as No. 15 UC San Diego tallied 22 hits and 20 runs, both season highs, to eliminate Cal Poly Pomona from the 2014 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship West Regional at Triton Ballpark Friday with a 20-5 win.
Rahn’s career day saw him finish 4-for-5 with four runs, two walks, a double, two home runs, 11 total bases and a career-best eight RBI. The lefty connected on a grand slam to cap a seven-run explosion in the third inning that put the game out of reach. He added a solo blast, also well over the wall in right, around a cue-shot two-run single that squirted just inside the third base bag in the fourth. An opposite-field double to the gap in left center in the ninth accounted for UCSD’s final run.
Rahn set a new program record for the Division II era (since 2001) for RBI in a single game, eclipsing Joel Clark’s seven, also in La Jolla against Cal Poly Pomona, on Feb. 28, 2004. He fell just one short of matching the all-time single-game NCAA Division II Championship mark, held by five former players.
Garrett Tuck also tallied four hits and four RBI for UCSD, while Nick La Face amassed three hits and three RBI. Michael Mann finished the day with a perfect 5-for-5 performance at the plate. Every Triton starter scored at least once.
Troy Cruz (8-3) earned the win in five innings of work, allowing two earned runs on four hit and striking out four without a walk. The sophomore right-hander retired the last seven Broncos he faced after a solo home run by California Collegiate Athletic Associaton (CCAA) Player of the Year David Armendariz, with three on strikes and two on grounders.
UCSD batted around a remarkable three times, in a four-run first and four-run fourth around the big third.
The first six Triton batters of the afternoon all reached base. Mann crushed a ball deep to right center, but the high trajectory forced two runners to hold, meaning a long single, one RBI and bases loaded for UCSD. With two away, Tuck drove the first pitch he saw straight up the middle for two scores and a 4-0 lead. The Tritons totaled three singles up the middle in the frame, and six for the game.
In the third, with three runs already in with RBI to Tuck on a single and Erik Lewis on a sacrifice fly, Cal Poly Pomona walked La Face with men at the corners to load the bases for Rahn. That proved to be a mistake, as he jumped on the first pitch from left-hander Max Bethell and deposited it beyond the scoreboard.
Mann also made a great, diving stop to the bag at first in the opening frame on defense, getting up and completing the inning-ending unassisted putout. Freshman shortstop Tyler Howsley expertly started UCSD’s lone twin killing on the day, of the 6-4-3 variety, to erase a leadoff single.
Eric Moersen threw a perfect seventh among a total of five Triton arms used.
Armendariz finished 3-for-4 with two runs, two doubles, a home run and three RBI. Starter Cody Ponce (4-5) took the loss.
Up next for UCSD is a seventh meeting this season with second-seeded and ninth-ranked CCAA foe Chico State, a 2-0 winner over third-seeded California Baptist in the night game. First pitch is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, with the victor moving through to play for the West Region championship. The pitching match-up is set for a pair of sophomore right-handers who were each selected to the All-CCAA First Team, in Triton ace Justin Donatella (8-2, 2.35) and the ‘Cats’ Brad Lohse (8-0, 1.46).
CBU will take on Pacific West Conference foe Dixie State in an elimination game at 3 p.m., with another elimination contest to follow at 7 p.m. to round out Saturday’s activity at Triton Ballpark. Dixie State knocked out Sonoma State, 6-5, early Friday.
Triton Notes: Troy Cruz is the only Triton to start all 51 games, with 13 now coming on the mound ... It was the 19th career pitching start for Cruz ... Erik Lewis extended his reached-base streak to 20 games and hit streak to eight, both current team bests ... Nick La Face’s third-inning intentional walk allowed him to match the single-season program record, pulling even with Aaron Bauman (2010) at 45 ... Justin Rahn became the first Triton since Scott Liske on Feb. 23, 2012, also against Cal Poly Pomona, to hit two home runs in a game … Michael Mann produced the first five-hit game by a Triton since Sam Michaels at SF State on March 17, 2012 ... Since the start of April, Garrett Tuck is hitting .379 (25-for-66) with 13 runs, a double, triple and 15 RBI ... The Tritons are 17-7 at home in 2014 and 23-4 over their last 27 ... They have reached double figures in runs 14 times, winning every game, and are 26-3 when tallying at least six runs in a contest ... The Tritons improved to 17-12 all-time in the NCAA Division II Championship, making their seventh appearance, and are an even 1-1 against Cal Poly Pomona ... UCSD has avenged both of its losses from the 2011 West Regional in La Jolla, having lost 4-0 in its opener that year to Sonoma State before suffering a 6-5 season-ending loss to CPP ... UCSD was 4-2 against CPP this year.