On Opening Night Friday at Triton Ballpark, No. 23 UCSD, behind a workmanlike five shutout innings from its senior ace Ryan Goodbrand, timely offensive execution and stellar defense, looked every bit the national contender to still be playing then.
With a trio of two-run innings in the first, fourth and eighth, the Tritons eased to a 6-2 victory to begin a three-game non-conference series between nationally-ranked programs against No. 20 Colorado Mesa University.
Goodbrand (1-0), who posted an 11-0 win-loss record over 15 starts a season ago, picked up right where he left off, tossing five scoreless innings and allowing just three hits without a walk while striking out six before exiting at a 76-pitch count. The Tritons are 14-2 when Goodbrand takes the hill, with five straight victories.
Junior leftfielder Justin Rahn went 3-for-5 with an RBI double in the first inning to put the Tritons on the board, and a run-scoring bunt single in the eighth. Senior All-American centerfielder Danny Susdorf was 2-for-4 with a walk, stolen base and two runs scored. His infield single to lead things off extended his hit streak to 18 games dating back to the end of the 2012 campaign.
The Tritons put runners at first and second to begin their half of the first as Susdorf reached and Wirta was also safe after his sacrifice attempt courtesy of the first of three Maverick errors on the evening, each of them leading to an unearned run. On the next offering by CMU starter Aaron Corwin (0-1), Rahn cut a ball to the opposite field that tailed away from leftfielder Mitch Corwin for an RBI double.
With one away and Tritons at the corners, junior third baseman Garrett Tuck lifted a sacrifice fly to pick up Wirta.
In the fourth, UCSD loaded the bases on a pair of walks following a one-out hit-by-pitch. Wirta's sacrifice fly to deep right plated Brett Levy for 3-0, with freshman Troy Cruz also sprinting home on an outfield miscue.
The eighth saw a final pair of insurance scores for the Tritons. Cruz drew a leadoff walk and advanced on a balk, with Susdorf then bunting toward the first-base side and expertly beating new reliever Luke Anderson to the bag with a head-long dive. With one away and both runners in scoring position via Susdorf's first steal of the year, Rahn laid down a perfect bunt of his own, which catcher Colton Schoelkopf picked up and skipped into right field, allowing Susdorf to score behind Cruz.
Colorado Mesa generated a two-run rally in the ninth as second baseman Justin Rosales smacked a two-run double to center before Cruz finally shut the door.
In the top of the second, Goodbrand went 3-0 to DH Tim Fowler after a leadoff single and strikeout of Rosales, but rallied to retire the senior swinging on a high fastball. He would ultimately strike out the side and retired the last eight batters he faced.
In fact, in between a Sergio Valenzuela double with one gone in the third and the two-run CMU eighth, three Triton hurlers combined to set down 17 of 18 Mavericks.
David Hart tossed the sixth and seventh and fellow right-hander Scott Zeman a perfect eighth. Both pitched at junior colleges a year ago, though Zeman was previously with the Tritons in 2011. He jumped off the mound to gather a well-placed leadoff bunt by Austin Kaiser and threw the junior out.
Other exemplary defensive plays for UCSD came from Tuck in the sixth, showing off a cannon arm at third on the speedy leadoff man Valenzuela, whose head-first slide ultimately forced him to leave the game. Then it was the turn of Tuck's left-sided infield mate, Dillon Moyer, who went to his backhand at deep short to deny CMU's All-American shortstop Braden Box in the eighth and then showed his range in the opposite direction behind the second-base bag in the ninth to get Colton Little. Moyer tried to out-do himself on the next batter, Michael Corwin, sailing his throw over the head of first baseman Richard Seigel for what went in the book as an infield single and UCSD's lone error on the night.
UCSD (1-0) and Colorado Mesa (0-1) resume their series on Saturday, Feb. 2, with a single game beginning at 2 p.m. at Triton Ballpark.
Triton Notes: With the victory, UCSD improved to 6-4 all-time against Colorado Mesa and a perfect 5-0 in La Jolla ... With five putouts in center field, Danny Susdorf extended his defensive streak without an error to his last 165 chances and 68 games dating back to April 29, 2011 ... Collegiate debuts came from redshirt freshman Corbin Wirta and true freshman Troy Cruz (Chula Vista) as the starters in right field and second base, respectively ... Cruz started in place of junior incumbent Spencer Frazier, who needed six stitches underneath his right eye when he was contacted by a pitch during Tuesday's exhibition finale with Vanguard ... Frazier could still see a return to the diamond this weekend ... Wirta's single in the second inning served as his first collegiate hit ... Other Triton debuts came from junior transfers Dillon Moyer and David Hart ... Nick La Face drew a 10-pitch walk to begin the home fifth ... The game was attended by former Triton All-American shortstop Vance Albitz, down from his native Torrance as he continues his Gloves 4 Troops initiative while awaiting a March 5 report date to Jupiter, Fla., the Spring Training home of the St. Louis Cardinals organization ... Earlier in the evening, the fourth and final one of the national polls for the NCAA Division II to release its preseason installment, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA), unveiled its listing, with UCSD coming in at No. 19 ... The Tritons are thus No. 17 (D2 Baseball News), No. 19 (NCBWA), No. 20 (College Baseball Lineup) and No. 23 (Collegiate Baseball Newspaper) in the four preseason polls.
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