LA JOLLA, Calif. - The 39th-ranked UC San Diego baseball team had the offense, pitching and defense all working in a comprehensive 8-1 victory over No. 12 Chico State in the 2014 California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) opener for both teams Friday night at Triton Ballpark.
With the result, UCSD moved to 4-2 overall and 1-0 in the CCAA. Chico State, the 2013 West Region runner-up and preseason league favorite, fell to an identical 4-2 and 0-1 in league play. The Wildcats had begun the night as winners of four straight.
Justin Donatella (1-1) allowed a single hit over six shutout innings in his second start of the young season and first of his career in a conference contest. The sophomore right-hander walked two and struck out a career-high six. He retired 10 batters in a row following a fielder’s choice groundout to end the second, setting the ‘Cats down in order in the third, fourth and fifth prior to a one-out walk in the sixth. The win was Donatella's second as a college pitcher and first as a starter.
The Saugus native only faced one tough situation, which he expertly got out of, in the very first frame. Chico State had runners at second and third with one gone following a one-out walk and a double to right by designated hitter Jeffrey Ortega on an 0-2 pitch. Donatella got a strikeout and a groundout as both ‘Cats were stranded.
On the offensive end, the Tritons got to Chico State’s senior ace, Nick Baker (1-1) and ended his night during a six-run third. The reigning CCAA Pitcher of the Week and Chico State’s lone All-CCAA First Team selection in 2013, lasted just 2.1 innings and gave up six runs, all earned, on seven hits and one walk, striking out three.
Baker turned away the first six Triton batters he faced before running in trouble in that big third that saw UCSD send 12 men to the plate and produce its first seven hits of the night. It all started with a walk to junior catcher Brett Levy, who fought off an 0-2 count, fouled off two offerings and ultimately drew the free pass. It was a foreshadowing of things to come as the Tritons really put together some incredible at-bats throughout the frame.
Senior shortstop Garrett Tuck, also facing an 0-2 count, lifted a double that Chico State rightfielder Danny Miller appeared to have misjudged, similarly to Ortega’s two-bagger two frames prior. With one out, sophomore third baseman Troy Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS) came up with the first of three sharp hits for UCSD in the inning as he placed a two-run single into left center. With runners at first and second, senior designated hitter Nick La Face punched a two-run triple, just the second of his career, to left field. Wildcat leftfielder Dylan Garcia dove forward in an attempt to make the catch, only to have the ball squirt through him and to the wall.
Ahead 4-0 at that point, UCSD immediately got another RBI knock by freshman centerfielder Jack Larsen. Larsen was making his first collegiate start after successfully rehabilitating an injury that limited him to just a pinch-hitting appearance thus far on the year. He took the first pitch he saw in his second at-bat against Baker and drove it solidly to center for a 5-0 bulge. It was Larsen’s first collegiate hit.
Next up was junior first baseman Michael Mann, who fouled off four 2-2offerings during a nine-pitch at-bat that ended with a single to right field. With the bases later loaded, Levy came back around and came up with an RBI single, also to center.
Baker threw 23 pitches in innings one and two, and 44 in the third.
The Tritons added two more runs in the sixth on a first-pitch, run-scoring double by Cruz to right center and a single by junior second baseman Erik Lewis up the middle to plate Cruz. Levy ignited that rally as well with a leadoff single.
Of UCSD’s 12 hits in the contest, Cruz, Lewis, La Face, Larsen and Levy had two apiece. Cruz had three RBI and scored twice, while La Face had his pair of RBI. Levy wound up 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs and one RBI. Mann and Justin Rahn each were hit twice. The Tritons lead the conference with 20 hit-by-pitches.
Defensively, Lewis made a diving stop to his right and threw to Mann to deny a single in the sixth. Mann had earlier made a deft pick-up of a tough short-hop. Senior Spencer Frazier, who took over Lewis in the eighth, ranged deep behind second and came up firing in his first frame, but pinch-hitter Tyler Madrid narrowly beat it out.
Sophomore Adrian Orozco (Chula Vista/Otay Ranch HS) threw two scoreless innings in relief of Donatella with two singles and a strikeout. Junior Dean Friedberg made his Triton debut by throwing the ninth.
UCSD and Chico State continue their four-game weekend series Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at 12 p.m. at Triton Ballpark.