LA JOLLA, Calif. - The 24th-ranked University of California San Diego baseball team hung on late to a 5-4 win over Concordia University Irvine Sunday at Triton Ballpark to clinch a second successive non-conference series victory, 3-1.
UC San Diego thus improves to 6-2. Concordia, of the Pacific West Conference, fell to an even 3-3. The Tritons had taken Friday night's series opener at home, 14-0, before the teams split Saturday's doubleheader in Irvine.
The Tritons broke a 1-1 deadlock with back-to-back two-run innings in the fifth and sixth, but still had to withstand a late rally by the visiting Eagles, who struck for two in the eighth and advanced the tying run to second base before finally relenting.
Jonah Dipoto handled the ninth on the mound and dodged a leadoff single and subsequent sacrifice via consecutive strikeouts, the latter one called as CUI cleanup hitter Jair Donovan was caught staring at a 2-2 slider on the outer corner. It was the sophomore right-hander's first career save, and indeed the Newport Beach product needed to make a tough play just to handle the sacrifice for the first out.
Jack Larsen's two-run single in the sixth then proved to be the game-winning hit. The star senior rightfielder battled back from an 0-2 hole to work the count full before sliding the eighth pitch he saw through the right side to plate Steven Coe and Brandon Shirley. Coe had singled on the infield for starters, with leadoff man Shirley then getting hit by a pitch ahead of a Keenan Brigman bunt.
With the Tritons able to close the victory out, redshirt senior right-handed starter Adrian Orozco (1-0) picked up his first winning decision in his second start. The Chula Vista native (Otay Ranch HS), who was primarily a reliever with just a single start as a freshman and sophomore at UCSD, spent the past two seasons at nearby Southwestern College and San Diego State, prior to returning to La Jolla to utilize his final season of college eligibility. On Sunday, he went 5.1 innings and allowed two runs on three hits and three walks, striking out two. It was in fact his first winning decision as a Triton.
The sides had combined for a solitary run through the first four frames, that by the Tritons through a two-out, third-inning rally. Larsen was hit by a pitch, and Christian Leung singled through the right side. Redshirt freshman designated hitter Nick Kitzmann then sent an 0-2 offering from junior left-handed starter Neil Lang (0-1) through the left side for an RBI single as Larsen sprinted around third to score.
Concordia pulled even in the fifth as Bailey Collins jumped all over Orozco's first pitch of the frame for his first collegiate home run, over the right field wall.
In the home half, JD Hearn and Larsen singled to center field back-to-back with one away. Leung, off to a hot start to his fourth and final season for the Tritons, pulled another single through the right side to plate Hearn, just one pitch after narrowly missing a three-run home run as the first-base umpire signaled it foul. With two away, Justin Flatt's infield single scored Larsen from third for 3-1.
The Eagles pulled one back in their sixth before UCSD added two more in its turn.
Larsen reached base in all five plate appearances, finishing 3-for-3 with two hit-by-pitches, two runs, two RBI and a stolen base. Leung got on safely in his first four trips to the dish, with two singles, a walk and a hit-by-pitch, before flying out to end the eighth. He drove in one. Brigman went 2-for-4 with a sacrifice.
Defensively, Coe was as good as ever behind the plate, bailing his starting pitcher out in an eventful first. The redshirt junior out of Valley Center first threw out freshman shortstop Haloa Dudoit for the second out of the inning, and after Orozco issued a second walk, to Spencer Nielsen, promptly back-picked him off of first base. In the fourth, Orozco showed off his defensive acumen by sprinting toward first, collecting Nielsen's bunt and scooping in one motion with his glove to Flatt for the second out. Finally in the fifth, senior shortstop Tyler Howsley ranged behind second base to gather Tony Garcia's grounder, and flipped to Brigman, who caught the ball bare-handed on the bag.
UCSD is scheduled to host Western Oregon in one final four-game series to round out the non-conference slate, Friday through Sunday, Feb. 17-19, but weather could alter that schedule. The series is supposed to get underway in primetime on Friday night, Feb. 17, with a 6 p.m. first pitch at 6 at Triton Ballpark. Fans should stay tuned to UCSD Athletics' official social media outlets (UCSDtritons), and UCSDtritons.com, for updates. All home games can be viewed in high definition on UCSDtritons.tv.
Triton Notes: Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games streak to 117 ... With his first stolen base of the season in the sixth, Jack Larsen remains a perfect 21-for-21 in steal attempts for his college career.