LA JOLLA, Calif. - The 24th-ranked University of California San Diego baseball team got a pair of stellar mound performances and a four-run fifth inning to beat Concordia University, 5-1, in the 2017 season opener for both sides at Triton Ballpark on Friday afternoon.
UC San Diego moved to 1-0 on the year. Concordia (0-1), of Portland, Ore., and the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, is in just its second year of NCAA Division II membership.
Sophomore left-hander Preston Mott took the ball from sixth-year UCSD head coach Eric Newman and allowed a solitary run on one hit and one walk over 5.0 innings. The Clovis product struck out three and left after the fifth on a pitch count, having thrown 63 of his allotted 70. His only blemish was a leadoff double in the second, from cleanup hitter Mitch Bevacqua, who then crucially took third on a groundout to third baseman JD Hearn, enabling him to score on Kyle Henderson's groundout.
Kyle Goodbrand, a transfer from Irvine Valley College and the younger brother of former Triton ace Ryan Goodbrand (2012-13), made his UCSD debut in relief of Mott.
And boy was it a debut. Routinely 93 and up and as high as 96 by one radar gun's reading, the redshirt junior right-hander was as advertised in his first outing as a Triton in front of multiple professional scouts. He picked up the save in a four-inning stint, allowing just a one-out double in the sixth while fanning four. Strangely, Concordia did not manage a single in the contest, but only two doubles.
The teams traded lone runs in the second, both via groundouts, before UCSD broke that deadlock for good with that four-run fifth.
Justin Flatt got things rolling by roping a one-out, first-pitch triple to the wall in right, as Bevacqua almost made the spectacular catch, but could not hang on when he slammed into the wall. He remained down for some time, but stayed in the game. The Tritons followed with an RBI double to left by Hearn, an RBI single by Jack Larsen through the right side, and a first-pitch RBI triple by sophomore first baseman Tyler Durna into the right field corner. Redshirt senior centerfielder Brandon Shirley lifted an opposite-field sacrifice fly to bring Durna home, with Bevacqua indeed making a tough grab to prevent another extra-base hit.
Mott retired 11 straight Cavaliers between the second-inning double and a two-out walk in the fifth. He posted three perfect frames, in the first, third and fourth, with Goodbrand following suit in the seventh and ninth. Goodbrand cancelled out that one-out double in the sixth with back-to-back strikeouts, the first one looking for his first UCSD punchout.
The Tritons were solid defensively. Shirley went to ground to snare a liner off the bat of Andrew Barrera to lead off the fourth. Hearn, the senior third baseman, charged and made a great throw just in time to rob Adam Taylor of an infield single to end the fifth. Then it was the Tim White show in the ninth, as the redshirt junior second baseman first leapt to snatch another liner by pinch-hitter Justin Walsh to lead off, before ranging to his left and coming up firing to get the next out.
Every hitter in the UCSD lineup, except for White in the leadoff spot, registered a hit on Friday. Flatt and Hearn had two apiece. Redshirt freshman Steven Schuknecht earned his college debut as the starting designated hitter. With two away in the big fifth, the Palm Desert product pulled a single through the right side, with the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder scooting over to second for the Tritons' first stolen base of 2017.
Senior right-hander Jake Brewer took the loss as Concordia's Opening Day starter.
UC San Diego and Concordia continue their four-game weekend series with a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 4. First pitch at Triton Ballpark in La Jolla is set for 1 p.m. Both ends of the twin bill are scheduled for the regulation nine innings. Parking is free. All home games can be viewed in high definition on UCSDtritons.tv.
Triton Notes: Fourth-year Triton Tyler Howsley drew his 110th consecutive start, all at shortstop, dating back to the 2015 opener ... Former All-American aces Justin Donatella and Ryan Goodbrand were among those on hand.