LA JOLLA, Calif. - Local products Jack Rupe, Jr., and Troy Cruz combined on a seven-hit shutout against No. 1 Chico State, 7-0, to earn No. 7 University of California San Diego the split of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) baseball doubleheader Saturday at Triton Ballpark.
UC San Diego surrendered a five-run sixth inning and let the Wildcats run away late with a 13-5 decision in game one.
With the results, UC San Diego moved to 23-7 overall and 15-5 in the CCAA. Chico State is now 28-6 overall and 21-2 in league play. The nightcap snapped a seven-game win streak for the 'Cats. With Cal Poly Pomona's doubleheader sweep at home over Cal State East Bay, the Tritons' lead atop the CCAA South is down to 2.5 games. The 'Cats are still comfortably atop the North standings by eight full games.
Saturday's activity now sets up a rubber match for the three-game series, which has a 12 p.m. first pitch at Triton Ballpark on East Campus in La Jolla on Sunday, April 9. Both teams have yet to lose a series during this 2017 season.
Rupe, Jr. (1-1), out of San Marcos and Mission Hills High School, drew the start in game two and threw the first five innings to notch his first winning decision this year. The true junior right-hander gave up six hits and a walk. Cruz, a Chula Vista native and graduate of Bonita Vista High School, took it the rest of the way, retiring 12 of the 13 batters he faced to earn his third save. It was his second relief stint of four shutout frames in the last eight days. The redshirt senior right-hander had just a leadoff single against him in the ninth. Both Tritons struck out a pair.
Another local, Adrian Orozco (5-0) takes the ball in Sunday's series decider. Orozco, like Cruz, is a redshirt senior right-hander from Chula Vista (Otay Ranch HS).
Game One - CSUC 13, UCSD 5
The 13 runs in the first game were a season high against UCSD, and in fact marked the first time a Triton opponent reached double figures in 2017. The Wildcats and Tritons began the weekend 1-2 in the CCAA and 3-8 nationally in the NCAA Division II in team ERA.
The game was a pitchers' duel between sophomore left-hander Preston Mott (6-2) for UCSD and junior right-hander Casey Costello (8-0) for Chico State through the first half as both teams had four base-runners with each turning a pair of critical double plays. JD Hearn made a tough pick-up to start a 5-3 twin killing to end the first after a leadoff single and one-out walk.
Mott also cleaned up a leadoff bunt single back to himself with a 6-3 double play in the second, ahead of a swinging strikeout. The Clovis product then breezed through a 1-2-3 third on back-to-back called third strikes, the latter after falling behind 3-0 on Casey Bennett, and a groundout on another bunted comebacker. Mott actually fanned three straight 'Cats and retired seven in a row at one point.
UCSD was first to break through on Costello, with a two-run fifth. Justin Flatt and Michael Palos came up with successive singles near the bottom of the order, with both Tritons advancing on a passed ball. Tyler Howsley fouled out down the right field line, and it was deep enough to plate Flatt and move Palos to third. Leadoff man Brandon Shirley followed with a solid RBI single to center.
That was as good as it would get, however, for UCSD, as Mott opened the next half by hitting Bennett with his first pitch, which preceded a costly infield error on a ground ball that looked like it could have led to a third double play for the home side. The Wildcats sent eight to the plate and needed only two hits to get their five runs, with a two-run Cameron Santos single and a three-run home run to left by Josh Falco.
The Tritons pulled one back in the home sixth. Alex Eliopulos fouled off five 1-2 offerings before striking out swinging on the 10th pitch, which got away from the catcher, though, to enable Tim White to score.
The sides traded a pair of runs in the eighth before Chico State blew it open with a six-run ninth, highlighted by a two-run shot off the top of the scoreboard in right by Cody Snider.
White reached base in all four plate appearances, three times to begin a frame, finishing 3-for-3 with a walk, two runs and his seventh stolen base. Tyler Durna added three hits of his own, with an RBI. Hearn bare-handed a Tyler Stofiel bunt and fired to Durna for the last out of Mott's (5.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) perfect fifth.
Falco was 3-for-4 with his home run, a hit-by-pitch, two runs and four RBI. His haul included a safety squeeze in the eighth that turned into an RBI bunt single.
Game Two - UCSD 7, CSUC 0
UCSD bounced right back from the game-one disappointment to bat around and put up a five spot in the first inning. In back-to-back-to-back at-bats, all with two outs, Flatt sliced a two-run single through the right side, Nick Kitzmann flared a bloop RBI double over the second baseman's head and down the right field line, and Keenan Brigman laced a two-run single in front of the rightfielder.
The Tritons manufactured single insurance tallies in the fourth and fifth and rode the arm of Cruz from there.
The rally in the home first was ignited by Shirley's leadoff single. Hearn worked a one-out walk, and with two gone, Eliopulos beat out an infield single to load the bases. Flatt swung through the first offering from Cam Greenough (5-1), who was a perfect 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA entering the contest, and then stared at strike two. He almost swung at the third pitch, but upon appeal, the first-base umpire deemed that he had successfully checked it. With new life, after one foul ball, Flatt found the hole and moments later, it was 5-0.
In the fourth, Brigman was thrown out at home for the second out with Shirley at the plate, but Shirley walked, moved to second on a passed ball, stole third, and galloped home on one of four Wildcat wild pitches in the game.
Durna tripled into the right field corner on the very first pitch of the Triton fifth off new pitcher Dan Beavers, and also scored on a wild pitch.
In between, Rupe, Jr., got himself in trouble in the fifth, loading the bases with nobody out on a hit-by-pitch, infield single and eight-pitch walk. He then got Snider to line right into the glove of Durna, who then caught Sonny Cortez off the first-base bag for the double play. A flyout ended that threat.
Rupe, Jr., had one 1-2-3 frame in the third via three groundouts. Durna dug out junior shortstop J.T. Williams' low throw in incredible fashion for the second out. He also dodged a two-out triple by Santos in the first with a flyout. The 'Cats had actually opened with an infield single, but a 4-6-3 double play wiped Cortez off the bases. Cruz set Chico State down in order in the sixth, seventh and eighth, with six groundouts and both of his punchouts.
Shirley went 2-for-3 with two runs, a walk and a stolen base from the leadoff spot.
Triton Notes: Tyler Howsley extended his consecutive games played streak to 139 dating back to the 2015 opener ... Jack Larsen has appeared in 94 straight games, all of them starts ... Tyler Durna extended his team-best streaks to 21 straight games reaching base and 16 with a hit ... Game One: Preston Mott made his team-best 10th start of the year and 24th of his career ... UCSD gave up its most runs since a 17-11 loss to Azusa Pacific at the West Regional in Walnut on May 14, 2015 ... Game Two: Jack Rupe, Jr., made his fourth start of the year and 11th of his career ... Brandon Shirley's fourth-inning steal was his team-best 10th in 13 attempts ... Durna's leadoff triple in the fifth was his second of the year and third of his career ... UCSD achieved its first victory over the No. 1-ranked team in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll since completing a four-game home sweep of Cal State Stanislaus on March 15, 2009 ... It was the Tritons' fourth shutout of 2017.