LOS ANGELES - The 29th-ranked UC San Diego baseball team took both ends of a doubleheader, 13-2 and 2-0, to close out the sweep of a four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series over Cal State L.A. Saturday at Reeder Field.
The Tritons used an offensive outburst to overpower the Golden Eagles in game one, scoring a season-high 13 runs on a season-best 19 hits. They then got a second career seven-inning shutout on the mound from sophomore Troy Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS) in the shortened nightcap. Cruz (4-2) scattered four singles and walked two while striking out a pair. It was his team-best third complete game of the year and fourth for his career, as well as the first individual shutout by a Triton in 2014.
The results extended UCSD’s win streak now to a season-best seven straight, with the Tritons achieving their 20th victory of 2014 early in the day and ultimately moving to 21-10 overall and 17-7 in the CCAA. Cal State L.A. dropped to 14-19 overall and 12-15 in league play. The Tritons had taken the first two games of the four-game, split-venue set at home on Thursday and Friday night, overturning 3-0 deficits in each contest to win 6-3 and 4-3, respectively.
For the weekend, UCSD earned itself a five and a half game cushion for the fourth and final qualifying spot for the CCAA Championship in Stockton, May 8-11. In fact, with Saturday’s doubleheader sweep and No. 10 Cal Poly Pomona’s split of a home twin bill with San Francisco State, the Tritons leapfrogged the Broncos and settled into third by half a game. Only Sonoma State (15-4) and fifth-ranked Chico State (18-5), which had its 12-game win streak halted by a home loss to Cal State East Bay Saturday, sit ahead of UCSD. Those two sides are yet to face each other, while the Tritons have their 12 remaining league games against three of the bottom four teams in the standings. Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona are also still to play.
With Chico State’s loss Saturday, UCSD boasts the longest win streak in the CCAA.
UCSD continues a season-long 11-game road stretch in the week ahead. The Tritons first head to Riverside to take on No. 18 California Baptist in a primetime tilt between nationally-ranked non-conference regional foes on Wednesday night, April 9, at 6 p.m. UCSD then will be in Turlock over the weekend for a four-game CCAA set with Cal State Stanislaus.
Brandon Shirley took the second pitch of the opener and lined it down the left field line for a leadoff double. CSULA starter Greg Humbert then got back-to-back flyouts, the latter to the base of the wall in center field as Shirley tagged up and moved to third, before Justin Rahn grounded out to end the frame.
Successive singles by Cody Doyle and Drew Vanisi began the home second, but Triton senior Blake Fassler got a flyout, called third strike and groundout to get out of it.
UCSD scored twice in the third as Shirley doubled on the first pitch, again down the left field line, and came home from third on an outfield error after Erik Lewis had provided a subsequent single to right. Singles by Nick La Face and Rahn loaded the bases, and with one out, Michael Mann’s team-leading fifth sacrifice fly made it 2-0.
CSULA got one of those runs right back in the home half courtesy of a two-out rally, with a hit-by-pitch and a single preceding Doyle’s RBI double down the line in left. With Golden Eagles at second and third, however, Fassler got Vanisi to ground out.
The Tritons then batted around and broke it open with a five-run fourth. They loaded the bags off of back-to-back one-out singles by Tyler Howsley and Shirley, and a walk to Lewis. La Face then took a 3-2 pitch and drew his league-leading 27th base on balls to force in Howsley for his 27th RBI. On Humbert’s next offering, Rahn sent a three-run triple down the line in right. With two gone, Mann’s single increased the bulge to 7-1 and ended Humbert’s afternoon.
Chad Rieser came on for Fassler to start the fourth, and though he allowed a two-out walk and then a single, closed out the shutdown inning with a called third strike.
UCSD tacked on a pair in the sixth on a two-out, two-run single by Mann. The Tritons loaded the bases again in the seventh on a leadoff double by Brett Levy, a one-out hit-by-pitch to Shirley and a four-pitch walk to Lewis, but two strikeouts got Ryan Keller out of that jam.
Keller was less fortunate in the eighth, when UCSD pushed another four runs across. Senior Garrett Tuck hit for Cruz, and got hit with Keller’s first pitch to start things off. Mann doubled to right on the very next throw, with Larsen drawing a five-pitch walk to leave the bags full of Tritons once more. Levy’s second double in as many innings chased Tuck and Mann home, with Howsley’s RBI single on the next pitch widening the gap to 12-1 and sending Keller out of the fray. An RBI fielder’s choice grounder off Lewis’ bat capped the scoring.
Shirley, a redshirt freshman batting leadoff for the first time in his college career, went 3-for-4 with two doubles , his single-game high, two runs scored and a hit-by-pitch. He reached base in four of five plate appearances. Mann produced his team-best second four-RBI performance, going atop the team chart with 28 on the year.
Fassler went 3.0 innings, giving up one run on four hits and no walks. He struck out one. He breezed through a 1-2-3 first on just seven pitches, getting three groundouts. Fellow senior right-hander David Hart came on with two away in the bottom of the fifth and induced a fielder’s choice grounder to end the frame. He then retired the Golden Eagles in order in the sixth, all on the infield, and used an inning-ending 4-3 double play to negate an infield error to begin the home seventh.
Humbert allowed seven runs on 10 hits and three walks over 3.2 innings, striking out one.
UCSD got all the offense it would need in the nightcap with single runs in the first and fourth. Shirley walked to open the game, moved to second on an infield error, to third on a La Face flyout to right, and scored on Rahn’s sacrifice fly on the next pitch.
In the fourth, Christian Leung singled to lead off and wound up on third on a second Golden Eagle error. The miscue proved to be of no consequence, however, when Tuck roped an RBI triple to left center on a 1-2 pitch from Marcos Casillas (0-2), who promptly was relieved.
Cruz set down Cal State L.A. in order in the second, third and sixth. After issuing a leadoff walk in the last half, he induced an infield foulout and a game-ending 4-6-3 double play in his final two pitches. A pair of Golden Eagles reached in both the first and fourth, but Cruz kept the sheet clean with a fielder’s choice grounder from Vanisi and a comebacker from Josh Guerra, respectively.
Larsen, Leung and Tuck had two hits apiece. It was a first multi-hit game of 2014 for both of the latter two Tritons. La Face walked twice, increasing his league-leading total to 29.
Triton Notes: Troy Cruz is the only Triton to start all 31 games, with seven coming on the mound ... Blake Fassler made his 17th start in a Triton uniform in the opener, and eighth of the year ... Nick La Face extended his reached-base streak to 28 games, the longest by a Triton in 2014 ... Justin Rahn’s triple in the fourth was his first of the year and third for his Triton career ... Brian Choi, who had come in defensively to catch in each of the first three games of the year, drew his fourth appearance and first at-bat of the season as a ninth-inning pinch-hitter in the first game, with his single marking his first hit of 2014 ... Garrett Tuck’s triple in the nightcap was his first of the year and second of his career ... The Tritons have now reached double figures in runs seven times in 2014, and improved to 15-2 when tallying at least six runs in a game ... The nightcap marked UCSD’s fifth shutout of the season, its most since posting five in 2010.