SAN MARCOS, Calif. - The 24th-ranked University of California San Diego baseball team rallied from deficits of 4-1 early and 7-4 late before ultimately outlasting Cal State San Marcos, 11-9, in game one of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) doubleheader Saturday afternoon at CSUSM Baseball Field.
In sweeping the twin bill, UC San Diego also thus swept the series to begin the CCAA slate. The Tritons extended the longest current win streak in the conference to eight games, now at 12-2 overall and a still-perfect 4-0 in the CCAA. Cal State San Marcos dropped to 10-6 overall and 0-4 in league play. UCSD had taken the first two games of the series at home, 8-0 on Thursday night and 5-3 on Friday night. The Tritons have won all four sets they have contested thus far in this 2017 campaign.
UCSD concludes a season-long five-game road stretch next weekend with the first of three regular-season trips to Northern California. The Tritons will play three in Hayward at Cal State East Bay, beginning with a 12 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday, March 4.
Game One - UCSD 11, CSUSM 9
UCSD threatened in its first turn at the plate as Tim White led off with a single up the middle and stole second with two away just ahead of Jack Larsen battling back from an 0-2 deficit to draw a walk. A flyout left the two Tritons stranded.
The Cougars came out and struck for a pair in their opening half, taking advantage of a leadoff walk and ensuing throwing error. A sacrifice moved those first two batters into scoring position, and Colin Dvorak sent a two-run single up the middle.
UCSD got one of those runs back in the second thanks in large part to another leadoff single. That came from Justin Flatt, who stole second and advanced to third on Tyler Howsley's ground ball to the right side for the second out. Redshirt junior catcher Steven Coe (Valley Center/Valley Center HS), who began the day as the CCAA's leading hitter at .483, found the hole on the left side for an RBI single.
After a first-pitch out in the home second, CSUSM loaded the bases through two walks around a single. On a comebacker, the Tritons were unable to make the play at the plate, leading to two more runs and a 4-1 deficit.
Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/San Diego Mesa College/La Jolla HS) got a hold of one to begin the fourth, smacking a double off the fence in right center. Each of the next two left-handed batters, Justin Flatt and Tyler Durna, did their jobs, as Flatt grounded out to the right side on an 0-2 pitch to move Eliopulos to third, and Durna lined a sacrifice fly to right that Colin Dvorak made a difficult play on, for 4-2.
White perfectly worked an eight-pitch, one-out walk to spark a one-run rally in the fifth, as Brandon Shirley followed by drilling a double to right center, and JD Hearn's soft groundout to the right pulled the Tritons a run closer at 4-3. Shirley was then thrown out at the plate trying to knot the score, to end the inning.
UCSD finally pulled even again with another single score in the seventh. Durna drew a walk for starters, with he and Howsley safe at the corners following a throwing error on a sacrifice attempt. Coe hit into a double play, but Durna came across.
Meanwhile, the Triton pitching settled down. Redshirt freshman right-hander Blaine Jarvis, who had started the fifth, turned in the first perfect inning for UCSD in the sixth, with a flyout and two groundouts. He then retired the first two in the seventh on the infield, before giving way to redshirt junior left-hander Travis Roberts, who got the pinch-hitter to fly out. Jarvis sent back the last six Cougars he faced.
After Hayden Weir (1-1) put away the Tritons in order in the eighth, Roberts struck out Ross Lemmel looking and hit Jose Osete. Nico Maida's double into the left field corner had UCSD firmly in trouble again. Roberts intentionally walked leadoff man Tyler Place. Then he fielded his position and threw Osete out at home on a ball off the bat of Griffin Teisher. A pitching change led into successive hit-by-pitches and a walk to put CSUSM back on top, 7-4, with its first runs since the second.
UCSD wasn't dead yet, not by a long shot, beginning the ninth with three consecutive singles, by Eliopulos, Flatt and Durna, the latter make it 7-5. Howsley's sacrifice attempt left everybody safe and the bases loaded as Weir hesitated and then still tried to cut down the lead runner at third. Coe then worked the count full and drew a walk to force Flatt home. After the first out of the inning was finally made at the plate, controversially, as it were, Shirley provided the big hit, taking an 0-2 offering from Weir straight back up the box on the drawn-in infield to give UCSD its first lead of the afternoon at 8-7.
With two away, Larsen did pretty much the same, poking a two-run single up the middle for an added cushion. Eliopulos followed with his second hit of the frame, a roped double into the right field corner, for Larsen to scream around third for 11-7 as the Tritons sent 11 to bat in all.
Troy Cruz still had to survive a furious two-run rally in the home ninth to pull out the win, finally getting a swinging strikeout with the tying run at the plate. Erik Amundson (1-1), who registered the finally out in the eight, earned the decision.
Junior right-hander Jack Rupe, Jr., making his second career start in his hometown of San Marcos (Mission Hills HS), went 4.0 innings and gave up four runs, just one of them earned, on four hits and four walks, striking out two. He stranded Cougars in scoring position in both the third and fourth.
Junior right-hander Alex Wall allowed three runs on five hits and two walks over his 6.0 frames. He struck out none, producing a 1-2-3 third and sixth.
Game Two - UCSD 9, CSUSM 6 (7)
UCSD started right where they left off from the ninth inning of game, scoring three times in the opening frame. The last two of those runs came as Jesse Moore slid a single through the right side just beyond the reach of the diving second base.
Redshirt senior right-hander Adrian Orozco set the Cougars down in order in the second on a pair of groundouts and a three-pitch swinging strikeout.
After a first-pitch called strike in the home third, CSUSM got two singles, a sacrifice, and a two-run single down the right field line by Teisher over the course of four consecutive pitches to make it a 3-2 game.
The Cougars eventually caught up at 4-4 and went ahead at 5-4. The teams traded single runs in the sixth, before the Tritons duplicated their final-inning heroics from earlier in the day, exploding for four in the seventh.
Eliopulos drew a four-pitch walk to lead off, and the rally was immediately on. White, in a pinch-hitting role, laid down the sacrifice. Two wild pitches around a hit-by-pitch left two Tritons in scoring position with only one out. Howsley flew out to shallow right for the second out, not deep enough to score freshman pinch-runner Chad Crosbie from third. Brady Smith (1-1) then logically issued an intentional walk to the Shirley, who demolished Cougar pitching all weekend, loading the bases for redshirt freshman second baseman Keenan Brigman.
Brigman initially didn't even have to do anything, as another wild pitch tied the game with Crosbie just sliding under the tag. The transfer from the University of the Pacific then did indeed come through in a big, big way, drilling a two-run triple over the centerfielder's head for a sudden 8-6 bulge. Brigman himself then scored on one final Cougar miscue on the day, a passed ball.
Roberts (1-0) worked around a leadoff Teisher single in the seventh, getting back-to-back swinging strikeouts and a flyout to put a capper on the marathon day in San Marcos.
Triton Notes: UCSD leads the all-time series, 8-3 ... Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 123 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 78 straight games, all of them starts ... Game One: The first start at CSUSM for San Marcos product Jack Rupe, Jr., came on May 8, 2016, when he allowed three runs on six hits and one walk over 3.0 innings while striking out two, and took the loss in an 8-2 decision ... Saturday marked Rupe's second starting assignment of 2017 and ninth of his college career ... Tim White swiped his second base in the first, and Justin Flatt his first in the second ... Alex Eliopulos' fourth-inning double was his second ... Brandon Shirley's fifth-inning double was also his second ... Shirley was caught stealing for the first time to end that fifth, after five successful tries ... Redshirt sophomore right-hander Cameron Kurz (Encinitas/La Costa Canyon HS) recovered from injury and made his first appearance of 2017.