Photo by: Andy Wilhelm
Alex Eliopulos leads the CCAA with five home runs and 20 RBI.

No. 7 UC San Diego Batters Cal State Dominguez Hills Behind Two Eliopulos Blasts, 14-3

UCSD

LA JOLLA, Calif. - Junior third baseman Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) blasted two long home runs among a season-high 18 hits to lead No. 7 UC San Diego to a 14-3 victory over Cal State Dominguez Hills on Friday evening at Triton Ballpark.

UC San Diego improved to 8-3 overall and 4-2 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). Cal State Dominguez Hills fell to 3-5 overall and 0-2 in league play. The Tritons had won the opener of the four-game series, also at home, 3-2 in 10 innings on Thursday night. The set now shifts north to Carson and Toro Field on Saturday, Feb. 24, for a doubleheader beginning at 11 a.m., as UCSD will look for its first CCAA series victory of the season.

UC San Diego scored all 14 of runs over the first four innings and put the result out of doubt early after surrendering a single tally in the initial frame. That haul included an eight-hit, six-run third in which 11 Tritons came to bat, followed by a five-run fourth.

After a two-out, first-pitch RBI single by Kevin Lugo gave the Toros a quick 1-0 edge in the top of the first, UCSD opened up the home half with four successive hits to immediately wipe that away. Freshman shortstop Shay Whitcomb's infield single preceded a mammoth two-run home run on an 0-1 pitch by Eliopulos to right, off the top of the scoreboard and over. Zander Clarke and Michael Palos followed with singles, and the Tritons in fact probably should have scored more with men at the corners and no outs, but weren't able to.

Junior left-hander Preston Mott turned in the perfect shutdown frame with a foulout that first baseman Rj Prince ranged down the line to make a tough play on while looking up at the sun, and then a swinging strikeout and groundout. Going right back to work, the hosts made it 3-1 in the second through a two-out rally. Whitcomb singled sharply to left center, and Eliopulos also singled, up the middle, with the centerfielder letting the ball go through him to allow Whitcomb to scramble home.

The big hit in the big third was a two-run triple, the first of his college career, by Nick Kitzmann, as the redshirt sophomore catcher lifted a 3-2 pitch into the gap in left center. All of that damage was done with two away after Palos had singled and the next two Tritons had gone down on strikes. Keenan Brigman hit a slow chopper that the third baseman had to wait for the hop on, and was credited with an infield single as he he looked to have beaten it out anyway, without Justin Morris throwing well above his first baseman for an error. Kitzmann's three-bagger came next, ahead of an RBI single by Brandon Stewart, RBI infield single by Whitcomb, Eliopulos double, two-run Clarke single, and Palos' second hit of the frame.

Prince began the fourth with a first-pitch infield single. Brigman singled and Kitzmann was hit by a pitch a league-best seventh time to load the bases. Stewart drew a four-pitch walk to force Prince home, and a passed ball made it 11-1. Whitcomb sent a sacrifice fly to center, and Eliopulos put the exclamation point by launching a two-run shot to right center, also on an 0-1 count.

Eliopulos finished a perfect 4-for-4 with the two home runs, a double, three runs and four RBI, falling a triple short of the cycle when he exited after five innings. Whitcomb was 3-for-3 with a sacrifice fly, three runs and two RBI. Palos went 3-for-5 with a run scored. Brigman, Kitzmann and Stewart scored two runs apiece at the bottom of the order, with Brigman providing two hits and Kitzmann and Stewart knocking in a pair.

Mott (2-0) went five complete innings and allowed one run on five hits and a single walk, striking out a career-best nine. He retired eight straight, all on the infield, with a perfect second and third. Stuka picked up his second save as he took it the rest of the way, giving up the other two runs, both in the ninth after three scoreless frames, on six hits and two walks. The sophomore right-hander fanned two.

Defensively, Eliopulos looked very smooth in charging and handling a slow chopper in the third before making the strong throw to Prince. Redshirt sophomore leftfielder Steven Schuknecht made a nice, running grab in left center to begin the seventh.

Cal State Dominguez Hills starter Willie Traynor (0-3) took the loss, having allowed nine of the runs, eight of them earned, on 12 hits in just 2.2 innings. He struck out five.

Triton Notes: Rj Prince started at first base for the second straight game in place of fellow junior Tyler Durna, unavailable due to injury ... Ted Stuka has closed out all three of Preston Mott's starts in 2018 with lengthy relief appearances in blowout wins, with a 4.1-inning win, three-inning save and four-inning save ... Mott has benefitted from 34 innings of run support in the early going ... The Tritons walked a season-low one time, that by Brandon Stewart in the fourth ... Michael Palos matched his single-game career best of three hits, from the 2017 national semifinals ... Alex Eliopulos equaled his career highs of three runs, four hits and two home runs ... All nine UC San Diego home runs so far this season have been to right field.

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