LA JOLLA, Calif. - Senior right-handed starting pitcher Adrian Orozco (Chula Vista/San Diego State/Southwestern College/Otay Ranch HS) fanned 12 over the first six frames, and the University of California San Diego offense posted a pair of big innings late as the No. 8 Tritons rolled past Cal State Monterey Bay Sunday at Triton Ballpark, 10-1, to take the series decider.
With the victory, UCSD improved to 15-4 overall and 7-2 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). The Tritons thus move into the top spot in the CCAA South on percentage points over two-time reigning West Region champion Cal Poly Pomona. They have not dropped a series yet in 2017, now with five wins and one split. Cal State Monterey Bay drops to 12-9 overall and an even 5-5 in league play.
Orozco (2-0) was magnificent, coming up one strikeout shy of matching former All-American ace Justin Donatella's Division II-era (since 2001) program standard of 13 from back in 2014. The 12 strikeouts were the most by a Triton, and in fact the first double-digit performance for UCSD, since Donatella set down 12, also in La Jolla against CSUMB, on April 10, 2015.
Orozco got going by striking out the side in the opening frame around a one-out Jordan Esposo double. Beginning with that two-bagger, he retired 10 straight, with perfect frames in the second and third, until a two-out Hayden Duer single in the fourth. Of those 10 outs, seven were on strikes, with the other three all groundouts. Orozco struck out at least one Otter in every one of his six full frames, allowing one run on six hits and a walk. That lone run scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch in the fifth, before limiting the damage through a flyout and swinging strikeout of Esposo.
Orozco actually departed with that 1-0 deficit, but his teammates promptly picked him up to make him the deserved winning pitcher thanks to a four-run sixth.
UCSD needed one hit and took advantage of two big Otter errors to tally three unearned runs in the seventh frame of a 3-2 triumph in Saturday's doubleheader nightcap. Today in the sixth, the Tritons scored those four without the benefit of a single hit, with the Otters committing three more errors to again make three of those runs of the unearned variety.
The Tritons then really broke things open with a six-run eighth. Senior rightfielder Jack Larsen started things off with a rare occurrence, that being a home run that came right off of the thin flagpole attached to the wall in right center, with the ball coming right back onto the field. Larsen in fact still sprinted around the bases and slid home safely ahead of the relay, as the first-base umpire was finally giving the home run signal off the bat. It was Larsen's second of the year.
That opened the floodgates off the new pitcher who Larsen had greeted. Brandon Shirley singled, Alex Eliopulos reached on a dropped fly ball by the Otter leftfielder, and CCAA Player of the Week Tyler Durna was hit by a pitch to fill the bags. Following another change on the mound, senior third baseman JD Hearn unsympathetically unfilled them, also going to right center with his second home run, a grand slam. Keenan Brigman laced a double into the left field corner, with pinch-runner Chad Crosbie later scoring on a Steven Coe groundout.
The Tritons left nine on base over the first five innings while Otter starter Ryan Arambula got in and out of trouble, throwing 33 pitches in the initial frame alone. They put multiple men on base in all of those but the 1-2-3 fourth.
Arambula was replaced to begin the home sixth. Brigman hit for Justin Flatt, after going down 0-2, battled back to work a seven-pitch walk. The redshirt freshman then swiped second and took third on a wild pitch. Coe followed with a walk, and that's when the defensive issues arose for the visitors.
UCSD still had to wriggle out of a rather large jam in the seventh after grabbing that 4-1 lead. CSUMB came up with successive singles for starters, but on the latter, Larsen fired a one-hopper from right field to Hearn on the third-base bag to cut down Ruben Gonzalez. It was Larsen's third outfield assist of the weekend. Nick Vigo doubled to put Otters on second and third, and Jonah Dipoto took over for Travis Roberts on the mound. The sophomore right-hander walked his first batter, Esposo, bringing up the 3-4 hitters with the bases loaded and the tying run at first. All Dipoto did was catch Myles Hager looking at strike three, and then get the dangerous Duer to swing through for the final out.
One other defensive game came in the second as Hearn bare-handed a slow roller up the third base line off the bat of Darren Kriz and fired in one motion to Durna, who had showed off some fine footwork in corralling the ball while stepping into foul territory with literally his toes just narrowly remaining on the bag.
UCSD makes its second of three regular-season trips to the Bay Area, for a three-game series at SF State. The games are Thursday and Friday, March 16-17, as the Tritons need to be back in La Jolla to begin winter quarter final exams on Saturday. Thursday's series opener is set for a 2 p.m. start.
Triton Notes: Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 128 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 83 straight games, all of them starts ... Larsen is now just four hits shy of becoming the 16th player in program history to reach 200 for his career ... Adrian Orozco made his fourth start of the year and fifth of his Triton career ... UCSD's last grand slam was hit by Brian Choi on Opening Day on Feb. 1, 2015, against Western Oregon in the second inning of game two of a doubleheader sweep.