LA JOLLA, Calif. - Fifth-ranked University of California San Diego scored early, scored often, pitched and caught the ball in a resounding doubleheader sweep of Sonoma State University Sunday at Triton Ballpark. Scores of the two nine-inning games were 11-1 and 14-1.
It was an inspiring effort, to say the least, after a rather drab 5-1 defeat to the Seawolves in the opener of the three-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series on Saturday night, immediately following winter quarter final exams.
UC San Diego thus rallied to take the series, two games to one, reaching the 20-win mark for the 16th consecutive season, now at 20-5 overall and 12-3 in the CCAA. The Tritons remain undefeated in 2017 sets, now with seven victories and one two-game split. They had once previously overturned a series-opening loss, in their prior home weekend against Cal State Monterey Bay two weeks ago. UCSD is now 2.5 games up on two-time reigning West Region champion Cal Poly Pomona, in the CCAA South Division standings.
Sonoma State fell to 12-10 overall and an even 9-9 in league play. Sunday's first result snapped the visitors' four-game success streak.
Brightest among a host of heroes for the Tritons was sophomore first baseman Tyler Durna. The Chino Hills product could virtually do no wrong in front of no small number of family members and friends on father Ronald's birthday. Durna finished 4-for-7 over the two games, with six runs scored and five driven in. In the nightcap, he was 2-for-3 with two home runs, a career-high four runs, and a career-high-matching four RBI. It was his first collegiate multi-home run effort.
Both Triton starters, redshirt junior right-hander Kyle Goodbrand and redshirt senior right-hander Adrian Orozco (Chula Vista/San Diego State/Southwestern College/Otay Ranch HS), tossed five full innings of shutout baseball to pick up wins.
UCSD did not commit an error in the field, while capitalizing on six Seawolf miscues, three in each end of the twin bill, to the tune of eight unearned runs. Earned or unearned, the Tritons put 25 runs on a pitching staff that entered the weekend with the seventh-best ERA nationally at 2.67. UCSD was sixth at 2.58, and is now at 2.55
The home side rapped out 25 hits in all as well, five of them home runs, all to right field from left-handed batters.
This week is Spring Break for UCSD, which will travel by bus for a third and final regular-season Northern California trip, this time with Turlock the destination, for a three-game series at Stanislaus State on Saturday and Sunday, April 1-2.
Game One - UCSD 11, SSU 1
UCSD scored two in the third, two in the fourth and four in the fifth to stake itself out to an 8-0 advantage in the first game.
The Tritons' first four runs off of SSU left-handed starter Matt Hammonds were unearned on a pair of infield errors. Redshirt junior catcher Steven Coe (Valley Center/Valley Center HS) got things rolling in the third with a leadoff single through the left side. Junior newcomer J.T. Williams, making his UCSD debut as the starting shortstop after recovering from a hand injury, then reached via error. After a Brandon Shirley sacrifice and a strikeout, senior JD Hearn came through in the clutch by lining a 1-2 pitch to the opposite field in right for a two-run single.
Durna's sixth double of the season began the fourth. Coe reached on a successful sacrifice attempt thanks to Hammonds' awry throw, which enabled Durna to score. Coe, who himself had made it to second, moved to third on Williams' bunt and sprinted home on Shirley's sacrifice fly on successive pitches.
Jack Larsen's fourth home run of 2017 opened the fifth-inning account, deep to right with one gone. Jesse Moore drew a six-pitch walk, and fellow first-year transfer Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/San Diego Mesa College/La Jolla HS) in turn went deep fly to right for a 7-0 lead. It was Eliopulos' second on the year and first at home. The Tritons still had time to add an unearned tally in the inning on SSU's third error.
Goodbrand (1-0) fanned three over his five frames, with five hits and no walks against. It was his first start since a February 16 home date, the performance netting him his first decision as a Triton.
UCSD was largely fortunate to still be in a scoreless game when it grabbed the lead. After Goodbrand cruised through a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 first, he needed a very unorthodox double play to get out of the second unscathed. Grant St. Martin led off with a scalding double to left, and advanced to third on a right-sided groundout. Nathan Mann then hit one to Williams at short, who caught St. Martin wandering off the third-base bag. He fired high to the plate, and Coe leapt to secure it with difficulty. Coe then threw to Hearn to tag St. Martin out. Mann in the meantime, was trying for second, and Hearn went there to Keenan Brigman to end the inning.
In the third, successive one-out singles had SSU in business, before Goodbrand got leadoff man Daniel Caresio swinging. What followed on the next pitch was a third single through the left side, by Mitch West. Moore bobbled in left field, such that all three runners felt compelled to try for an extra base. Moore was able, however, to gather and fire to Williams covering at third base, to put Rayson Romero out just seconds before Nicco Toni crossed the plate. The run was disallowed.
Goodbrand had a second perfect frame in the fifth before exiting in favor of Blaine Jarvis (1.2 IP, 4 H, R, 0 BB, 3 SO). John Erhardt relieved Jarvis with a run in and the bases full in the seventh, and induced the inning-ending groundout. The redshirt junior right-hander, who was making his first Triton Ballpark appearance since Opening Day in 2016 on Feb. 6, was in just the second outing of his comeback from Tommy John surgery. He set the Seawolves down in order with a strikeout in between two more groundouts in the eighth.
True freshman right-hander Ted Stuka handled the ninth and started a deft 1-6-3 double play to end the game after a four-pitch walk and hit-by-pitch for starters.
UCSD capped the scoring through a four-pitch walk to Coe and first-pitch RBI double by Williams to left, both with two outs, in the seventh, and two-out RBI singles by Eliopulos and Durna in the eighth. Williams' contribution was his first extra-base hit as a Triton.
Game Two - UCSD 14, SSU 1
Up 5-0 after runs in each of the first three innings, the Tritons broke open the nightcap with a seven-run fifth.
Orozco improved to 4-0 with six strikeouts in his stint, giving up just three singles and a walk. He registered 10 straight outs between a leadoff walk in the first and one-out single in the fourth, and seven ground-ball outs in all. Orozco followed that latter single with successive punchouts, and cleaned up a leadoff walk and one-out single in the fifth by dialing up a 6-3 twin killing into Tyler Howsley's wheelhouse.
Durna's first blast was of the two-run variety in the third, a moon shot out to right center after Larsen had worked a six-pitch walk to lead off around the game's first pitching change, and a flyout. Durna jumped all over reliever Cody Bennett's initial offering after the right-hander made two tosses over to first to check on Larsen.
Hearn ignited the big fifth by launching a double to the deepest part of the ballpark, halfway up the wall in straightaway center. UCSD loaded the bases on a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Durna's chopper up the middle was booted by the second baseman, though he was credited for one RBI as Hearn and Larsen both scored. Brigman then laid down a stellar bunt with the pitcher having no play at first, and being unable to get a handle in order to make the flip to third base. Everyone was safe to fill the bags once more. Michael Palos' right-sided RBI groundout preceded a roped two-run double into left field by Howsley. After a pitching change and an infield single beaten out to shortstop by Shirley, Tim White singled sharply on the first pitch he saw, through the right side to plate Howsley. Hearn's RBI fielder's choice made it 12-0 as 11 Tritons batted in the inning.
Durna and Justin Flatt added solo home runs to round out the scoring, Durna's absolutely hammered to right with one away in the sixth, and Flatt's also pulled over the wall in right to lead off the eighth. It was Flatt's first long ball since his redshirt freshman season two years ago, on May 18, 2015.
Durna also flashed the leather early during a 1-2-3 second for Orozco with all three outs on ground balls to Howsley. On the third one, the throw was low, but Durna went down and stretched to pluck the ball out and rescue his senior teammate.
Triton Notes: Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 134 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 89 straight games, all of them starts ... The Tritons improved to 13-3 at home this year ... UCSD hit multiple home runs in back-to-back games for the first time since May 12-13, 2011, en route to winning the CCAA Championship in Stockton ... The Tritons tallied double-digit runs in two consecutive games for the first time since another home doubleheader sweep, over Stanislaus State (11-10, 10-2), on April 2, 2016 ... Game One: Howsley did not start for just the second time in 2017, but entered in the eighth as a pinch-runner before making his first ever appearance as a Triton at third base in the ninth ... Kyle Goodbrand made his third UCSD start ... Game Two: Adrian Orozco made his sixth start of the year an seventh of his Triton career ... Orozco has won his last three starts, and gone at least 5.0 innings in all six ... Jack Rupe, Jr. made his first appearance since a start at Cal State San Marcos on Feb. 25 ... Justin Flatt's home run was his first at Triton Ballpark since Feb. 3, 2015 ... UCSD's 14 runs matched its season high, and also equaled the most given up by Sonoma State this year ... The Tritons produced a season-high eight extra-base hits, with five doubles and three home runs ... The three home runs matched UCSD's season high (at Concordia Irvine on Feb. 11), and was its most in a home contest since the trio on Feb. 11, 2016, vs. UT-Permian Basin.