LA JOLLA, Calif. - The 20th-ranked UC San Diego baseball team overturned a 4-0 deficit late to win the opener, 6-4, but had to settle for a tough split of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) doubleheader with Cal State San Bernardino on Senior Day at Triton Ballpark Saturday.
UCSD entered the day needing to sweep the twin bill with the Coyotes, and hope that Sonoma State took at least one game in its home doubleheader against No. 6 Chico State, giving the Seawolves a chance to split that series Sunday in Sacramento. After Chico State won the opener, 7-3, Sonoma State did its part, taking the seven-inning nightcap, 4-2.
The Tritons were nursing a 3-2 edge into the final frame in La Jolla, when visiting CSUSB struck twice and held on for a 4-3 victory, dashing UCSD’s hopes of sharing the CCAA regular-season title with Sonoma State. The Tritons would still have needed the Seawolves to win at neutral-site Raley Field in Sacramento on Sunday in a game that begins at 1 p.m. That contest will still determine UCSD’s seed at the CCAA Championship in Stockton this week. The Tritons will definitely open the four-team, double-elimination tournament on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Banner Island Ballpark. If Chico State wins Sunday, UCSD will be the No. 2 seed and play third-seeded Sonoma State. If SSU wins, the third-seed Tritons would face the rival ‘Cats.’
UCSD’s six-game win streak was snapped with the afternoon defeat. The Tritons are now 32-14 overall and 26-10 in the CCAA. CSUSB snapped its eight-game losing skid in completing the 2014 campaign at 13-37 overall and 11-29 in league play.
Triton seniors Blake Fassler, Spencer Frazier, David Hart, Nick La Face, Justin Rahn, Garrett Tuck and Scott Zeman were recognized in between games of the doubleheader for their career contributions on Senior Day.
La Face was in fact the main hero of the rally in the opener. UCSD trailed 4-0 after the visitor seventh, but Coyote pitchers walked four straight Tritons after registering the first two outs of the frame. The last of those free passes, issued to Troy Cruz, forced home UCSD’s first run. After taking a strike, La Face lifted an opposite-field fly ball that could have landed just about anywhere, over the wall or short, foul or fair, and ultimately settled on coming off the wall just inside the foul pole in right. That cleared the bases as the fifth-year senior’s league-best fifth triple.
UCSD added an insurance run in the eighth on a Brandon Shirley single.
Hart (1-0) went a career-long 3.2 innings in relief of Fassler, and came away with his first winning decision in a UCSD uniform. A third senior right-hander, Zeman, got the final two outs for his seventh save.
CSUSB needed just the first three pitches out of Cruz’s hand in the seventh to spoil the festivities. Down a run, the Coyotes got a leadoff single by Nick Massari, before Nolan Almodovar’s perfect bunt single triggered a throwing error and putting the go-ahead run at second. Spencer Bayless then came up clutch by dropping a decisive, and deflating, two-run single into left center on the first pitch he saw.
Cruz (7-3) took the tough-luck loss. Jake Meloche (2-3) picked up the win with his scoreless sixth, while Brian Jipp took the seventh for his fourths ave.
Almodovar was 3-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored for CSUSB.
Erik Lewis had put UCSD on the scoreboard through essentially a mirror-image hit of Bayless’, going to right center with a looper to plate a pair of teammates in the third. A Garrett Tuck sacrifice fly in the fourth made it 3-0 before CSUSB came back.
Triton Notes: Troy Cruz is the only Triton to start all 46 games, with 11 coming on the mound ... After game one, the Tritons improved to 24-3 when tallying at least six runs in a game.