LOS ANGELES - Twelfth-ranked University of California San Diego squandered a 7-1 lead in a nightmare seven-run seventh and dropped a real difficult decision to Cal State LA, 8-7, in the second meeting of a four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series Friday night at Reeder Field.
UC San Diego, which had taken Thursday night's opener, 9-3, saw its win streak snapped at four in falling to 29-12 overall and 21-10 in the CCAA. Cal State LA, a loser of eight in a row heading in, improved to an even 21-21 overall and 14-18 in league play. The first-place Tritons' lead atop the CCAA South standings over idle Cal Poly Pomona went right back down to just half a game. Also, combined with No. 4 Chico State's 5-4 home win over Cal State East Bay, the rival Wildcats thus clinched the 2017 CCAA regular-season crown and top seed at the 2017 CCAA Championship.
The home seventh began with four consecutive singles to make it 7-3, before a pitching change and two-run double by Jorge Garcia closed the gap even further. An infield single and sacrifice preceded another pitching change and two-run double that knotted the score. Two more singles incredibly put CSULA ahead to stay, 8-7.
Jack Larsen inside-outed the second pitch of the game into the gap in left center for a leadoff double, with fellow senior JD Hearn following that up by drawing a walk from starter Greg Humbert. The league's leading hitter, Tyler Durna, cued one right to the third baseman on the next pitch, however, for a 5-3 double play, snapping a streak of eight straight plate appearances reaching base for the sophomore. A flyout quickly ended that early threat.
UCSD put two on in the second as well, moving redshirt freshmen Keenan Brigman and Nick Kitzmann to third and first, respectively, via two-out singles. A nice play on the infield on a hard-hit ball by Tyler Howsley ended the inning.
Back-to-back singles by Sean Watkins and Garcia got the home side going in the bottom half. After Anthony Ayala was unsuccessful in getting the bunt down with two fouls, he was also unable to check his swing on a third strike for the first out. Adrian Orozco then induced a fielder's choice groundout to third, with Andrew Hermanson barely beating out the relay to keep Golden Eagles at the corners for Tommy Pincin. UCSD's redshirt senior right-hander got him waving as well, and pumped the fist emphatically for getting himself out of trouble.
Larsen was put out on a close play at first to begin the third, ahead of Hearn's roped opposite-field double into the gap in right center. Durna extended his hit streak to 27 by pulling a single to right, but while Hearn stopped at third, Durna rounded first too hard and made the second out. Redshirt sophomore designated hitter Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) picked his teammate up, however, by poking an RBI single, also to the opposite field, through the left side to plate Hearn.
CSULA's number-nine batter, Drew Seelman, doubled just inside the left field line to begin the home half and advanced to second on a right-sided groundout, Durna making the tough unassisted play on Nathan Navarrete. An RBI groundout by Sanchez tied the game. Christian Broussard bombed a double to left center and went to third on a wild pitch after a mound visit, but Orozco fanned Watkins.
Brigman worked a tough walk with one gone in the fourth, stole second and trotted to third on a right-sided groundout, but though Howsley put a charge into one, his flyout to deep center kept him stranded there.
Orozco allowed the leadoff man on for a third straight frame in the fourth, hitting Garcia. What followed was a swinging strikeout, deep flyout to left, single up the middle by Pincin, and another flyout to wriggle out of the inning.
With one gone in the fifth, Humbert plunked Hearn, and then Durna banged one off the wall in right center to put the Tritons back on top, 2-1. Brandon Shirley beat out an infield single deep in the shortstop hole to put men at the corners. True freshman leftfielder Chad Crosbie watched two balls outside the zone and took a strike around several throws by Humbert over to first, before launching a clutch two-out, two-run double off the wall in right for a 4-1 bulge.
The Golden Eagles managed two singles in the bottom of the fifth, but had nothing to show for it as Orozco notched the shutdown frame. A fourth straight leadoff man reached base, but Kitzmann quickly erased Navarrette trying to swipe second, with Brigman gathering and applying the deft tag.
UCSD added a single tally on a Hearn sacrifice fly in the sixth, and two more in the next frame on a pinch-hit RBI double to left by Jesse Moore and an RBI fielder's choice groundout by Brigman, to up the advantage to 7-1. The Tritons still loaded the bases with only one out, threatening to really blow it open as Cal State LA went to the bullpen again. A flyout and groundout prevented them from doing so, and they were made to pay.
Orozco went 6.0 innings and allowed one run on nine hits, one hit-by-pitch and no walks. The Chula Vista product (Otay Ranch HS) struck out five. Orozco set the Golden Eagles down in order in the first on two groundouts and a flyout, getting a great full-extension play from Hearn at third for the second out.
Durna was 2-for-4 with his eighth double, a walk, run scored and one RBI. Brigman reached three times, going 2-for-4 with a walk, RBI and stolen base. Hearn and Shirley each scored twice.
Humbert, a junior right-hander, gave up four runs on nine hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch over 5.0 innings, striking out one. Holden Berger (1-0) became the pitcher of record, and Gabriel Gentner's perfect ninth earned him a seventh save.
UC San Diego and Cal State LA conclude their four-game series with a doubleheader at Triton Ballpark on East Campus in La Jolla on Saturday, April 29. First pitch for game one is set for 1 p.m., with a shortened seven-inning nightcap to follow. General admission is $5 (free for UCSD students) and parking is free all day. Both contests can be viewed in high definition on UCSDtritons.tv for a combined fee of $5.99.
Triton Notes: Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 150 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 105 straight games, all of them starts ... JD Hearn has appeared in 72 games in a row, all of them starts ... Hearn, Howsley and Larsen are the only Tritons to appear in all 41 games this season ... Larsen was in the leadoff spot for the fifth time in his career, all coming this month ... Adrian Orozco made his 11th start of the year and 12th of his Triton career ... True freshman Chad Crosbie earned his fourth start, his third now in left field ... Tyler Durna extended his team-best streaks to 32 straight games reaching base and 27 with a hit ... The hit streak is a record for the program's NCAA Division II era (since 2001) ... Durna extended the hit streak with a single in his second at-bat in the third, after having done so in his first plate appearance for three games in a row ... Durna continues to lead the CCAA with his .433 average ... Larsen himself extended his streaks to 11 games with a hit and 23 reaching base ... Durna had reached base in eight straight plate appearances over the previous two games, via one double, four singles and three walks, prior to tonight's first-inning groundout ... Larsen's first-inning double was his eighth, and Hearn's third-inning double his team-best ninth ... Keenan Brigman's fourth-inning steal was his sixth in seven tries ... Crosbie's fifth-inning double gave him five two-baggers among his seven hits this season ... Nick Kitzmann threw out his fifth would-be base-stealer in 10 attempts ... The seven-run seventh was the largest inning by a Triton opponent in 2017 ... The season-high 19 hits surrendered were the most since allowing 20 in a 9-2 loss to Cal State Dominguez Hills on March 10, 2016.