CHICO, Calif. - Down 4-1 in hostile territory to the red-hot league leaders with their in-form ace on the hill, UC San Diego rallied and gutted out a 7-5 triumph over No. 3 Chico State in the opener of a huge four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) baseball series Friday night at Nettleton Stadium.
With the victory, UCSD improved to 21-18 overall and 15-14 in the CCAA. The Tritons moved into a three-way tie for fifth, a single game behind the all-important fourth spot in the league standings currently occupied by Sonoma State. The top four teams earn berths into the CCAA Championship, which UCSD has won the last four seasons.
Chico State saw its 10-game home win streak come to an end, falling to 30-7 overall and 23-6 in league play. It was the Wildcats’ first CCAA home loss, and pulled them back into a first-place tie with Cal State L.A., a 6-4 winner at Sonoma State.
Ryan Goodbrand (7-3) led the way for UCSD on the mound, toughing out a resurgent 7.2 innings to earn his first winning decision since Mar. 14 at Cal State L.A. The senior right-hander gave up five runs on 10 hits and two walks, striking out eight. He twice retired six in a row, from the third to the fifth with three on strikes, and again from the fifth to the seventh. The innings and strikeouts were his most since he went 8.0 with eight at Cal State Dominguez Hills on Feb. 21. He was coming off of back-to-back losses for the first time as a Triton, and hadn’t thrown since Apr. 5.
UCSD wasted little time in being first to the scoreboard, as four tosses into top Chico State hurler Nick Baker’s night, it was 1-0 Tritons. Danny Susdorf lined a double to left field with the second pitch he saw, moved to third on a passed ball and came home on Garrett Tuck’s RBI groundout.
In the home half, junior Triton second baseman Spencer Frazier made his first return to the diamond since mid-February felt, as after a lead single by Eric Angerer, he snared Pierson Jeremiah’s liner and flipped to first to complete the double play.
The 2012 CCAA regular-season co-champions then traded four-run outbursts in the home second and visitor third. The Wildcats loaded the bases on two singles and a walk before Goodbrand was able to fan Roger Boulden for the first out. An RBI groundout made it look like the Tritons may come away relatively unscathed, but No. 9 hitter Cody Slader jumped all over the initial offering for his first home run of the year, a damaging three-run job to left for 4-1.
The Tritons immediately returned the favor as Susdorf and fellow senior Richard Seigel singled to right around a Wildcat error that allowed Tuck to reach as he attempted to sacrifice. Nick La Face lifted a sacrifice fly and Seigel was picked off of first for two outs as UCSD still faced a 4-2 deficit, but Justin Rahn narrowly beat out an RBI single on the infield. Dillon Moyer followed with a single, as did Scott Liske like Rahn on the infield, with Chico catcher Ben Manlove picking the ball up and throwing it away to allow Rahn and Moyer to score and put UCSD back on top.
Each side put its leadoff hitter on base over the first two and a half innings, with UCSD taking advantage of three errors during that stretch by a team ranked fourth in the nation in fielding percentage at .975 heading in.
Chico State had two on with one out in the home third, but Goodbrand got a flyout and a groundout to maintain the 5-4 edge for his club. That escape spurred him to a 1-2-3 fourth with a pair of strikeouts around a groundout.
The Wildcats loaded the bases with two away in the fifth on a pair of singles and a hit-by-pitch, but Goodbrand fanned Austin Prott to end that threat.
“It was a struggle in the beginning,” said Goodbrand about his night. “Giving up that four-spot in the second, I knew I was better than that. My guys came back in (to the dugout) and picked me up. They punched right back with all the runs I had just given up. From then on, I gave it everything I had to give us a chance to win, and that’s what happened. I got into a couple of situations, with the bases loaded or second and third, but just kept battling hard.”
In the top of the sixth, a pair of Baker hit-by-pitches around a Corbin Wirta bunt, and a double steal, put both Liske and Frazier in scoring position. Baker then issued an intentional base on balls to Susdorf. Tuck’s team-leading sixth sacrifice fly gave him a second RBI via productive out for the night and the Tritons a 6-4 lead.
Goodbrand produced a second 1-2-3 frame in the home sixth, himself assisting nicely on the third putout on a chopped comebacker after successive flyouts to left.
After Chico State standout Blake Gibbs singled with two gone in the seventh, Goodbrand set leading hitter Cody Webber down swinging. Frazier had gone to ground to his backhand side before throwing out Jeremiah moments earlier.
“He’s a force out there,” offered Goodbrand about Frazier’s return to action. “You can’t go wrong with any of our second basemen, but it was nice to have those plays that he made tonight. There was one play (in the fifth) where we didn’t get an out but he kept it on the infield and prevented the runner from getting to third with one out. That took a lot of pressure off of me. There was another one (in the seventh) where he dove up the middle and got the out. He’s a hard-nosed ballplayer and that’s what we try to do, is keep playing hard. That’s what Spencer represents.”
Liske gave UCSD an insurance run by opening the eighth with his second home run in as many games. It was just the fifth long ball surrendered by the Wildcat pitching staff all year.
Chico State, a winner of 16 of its previous 17, wasn’t done. Kenny Corona singled to open its half of the eighth and Prott lifted an RBI double toward the gap in left center to chase him home for 7-5. Consecutive pinch-hitters netted the hosts a right-sided groundout to move Prott to third, and a swinging strikeout by Jon Peters on an exquisite final pitch on the night by Goodbrand. On came Scott Zeman for his CCAA-leading 24th appearance, with the right-hander fanning Slader to bring on the ninth.
Zeman was perfect against the top of the order in that final stanza for his third save.
“We showed a lot of character after a couple bad breaks and the home run in that inning,” remarked UCSD head coach Eric Newman. “They responded and put together some real good at-bats. (Chico State) helped us when they misplayed a drag bunt. Our guys really bought into what we were trying to do all night and answered back with four of our own. Goody settled in, and pitched his tail off for the next six innings. Going strikeout, strikeout (after the Chico run in the eighth) was big. They believed in each other and kept fighting. There was a lot of will to win in our dugout.
“You could tell after that pitch (the home run), he was a little down,” added Newman about his starting pitcher. “He got the next guy out (to end the inning), and when we put those four runs up (in the next half), you knew he was going to will himself to win that game, and will us to win that game. That’s really what he did. It wasn’t great early on, but he kept grinding. That’s his competitive nature. He was just not going to lose. He made the biggest pitches in the biggest moments, and that was huge.”
Susdorf was 2-for-4 with a walk, double and two runs scored. Liske finished 2-for-3 with his clutch shot, a hit-by-pitch, steal, two runs and an RBI. Seigel and Moyer added two hits apiece. Tuck had two RBI.
For the night, UCSD had its leadoff hitter reach base in six of nine innings.
Baker (7-1) allowed a season-high six runs, three of them earned, on nine hits and one walk over 6.0 frames, striking out six. The junior right-hander retired the Tritons in order in the fourth. He had entered the day with a miniscule 0.97 ERA, sixth-best nationally, and was pinned with his first loss of the campaign.
Gibbs and Webber each provided two hits in addition to Slader’s big knock.
UCSD and Chico State continue their weekend series with a doubleheader beginning at 12 p.m. at Nettleton Stadium on Saturday, Apr. 20.
Triton Notes: UCSD leads the series since 2001, 30-27, and has won five straight meetings in Chico and eight of nine at Nettleton … The Tritons are now 9-7 against ranked foes and 9-4 in night games in 2013 … Nick La Face has started 96 straight games … Richard Seigel has started 76 games in a row … Scott Liske made his seventh straight start in right field … Spencer Frazier’s start at second base marked his first appearance since Feb. 17, having missed the last 27 contests through injury … Ryan Goodbrand drew his 25th start on the mound for UCSD and is 18-3 … Goodbrand has gone at least 5.0 innings in 24 of his 25 outings, with the Tritons posting a 20-5 record when he starts … The home run Goodbrand allowed in the second was just the second against him in 61.2 innings now in 2013 … Danny Susdorf’s first-inning double was his team-leading 14th on the year and 55th of his career, fifth all-time at UCSD … With 165 career runs, Susdorf moves over former teammate Evan Kehoe and into sole possession of fourth all-time in program history … Garrett Tuck’s third-inning sacrifice was his eighth on the year … Corbin Wirta’s sacrifice in the sixth was his team-best 11th, now second-most in the league … The sixth-inning steals by Liske and Frazier were their second and first, respectively … Liske’s home run was his second of the year and seventh of his career … UCSD last beat a team rated as high as No. 3 nationally on May 24, 2010, when it edged third-ranked Central Missouri, 2-1, at the NCAA Division II Championship in Cary, N.C.