LA JOLLA, Calif. - The University of California San Diego baseball team rallied from a 6-0 deficit to take the first game of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) doubleheader against Cal State East Bay on Friday, 7-6. The visiting Pioneers got out to another 6-0 advantage in the shortened seven-inning nightcap, and this time they hung on for a 6-1 victory and the split of the twin bill at Triton Ballpark.
With the results, UC San Diego moves to 18-10 overall and 14-9 in the CCAA. Cal State East Bay is now 14-15 overall and 11-12 in league play. The Tritons had produced a 25-2 romp in Thursday night's opener, and hold a 2-1 edge in the four-game showdown ahead of Sunday's Easter holiday. UCSD remains in a two-way tie for third place in the league standings with Cal Poly Pomona, who also played to a doubleheader split at home on Friday. Cal State Monterey Bay is now alone in first.
UC San Diego will look for the series victory on Saturday, March 31, when the teams conclude their set in La Jolla. First pitch at Triton Ballpark is at 12 p.m. Parking and attendance will be free.
Game One - UCSD 7, CSUEB 6
UC San Diego was shut out over the first five frames after its 25-run outburst the previous night, but sent 10 men to the plate during a six-run sixth that knotted the score at 6-6. Freshman shortstop Shay Whitcomb led off with a single. With one down, Zander Clarke hit a grounder to Dakota Conners, and the second baseman spun to get the lead runner at second, but threw the ball away, leaving Tritons at the corners. Another fielder's choice groundout, this one of the RBI variety, by Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS), put the home side on the board. With two away, the inning did not look to have the makings of a significant rally.
That prognosis, was wrong. Steven Schuknecht singled on the infield, and fellow redshirt sophomore Keenan Brigman laced an RBI double down the left field line. With Tritons at second and third, senior second baseman Justin Beck pulled a first-pitch, two-run single through the right side, and it was 6-4. Senior Jesse Moore drew a walk as a pinch-hitter, and Christopher Schasteen went in to run for him as the tying tally. Redshirt freshman Brandon Stewart, from the nine hole, then lifted a seemingly-harmless fly ball out to right, but Conners and rightfielder Raymond Jones collided, with the ball landing untouched beyond both of them. The two runs scored easily to level the score, with the speedy Stewart sprinting all the way around to third for what was credited as his first collegiate triple. All six Triton runs were unearned.
Redshirt freshman right-hander Antonio Barrios set the Pioneers down in order for a shutdown seventh, his second complete inning on the hill, all on the infield with a popout, groundout and swinging strikeout.
The Tritons went right back to work with the heart of their order, as junior first baseman Tyler Durna doubled into the right field corner for starters. Clarke struck out and Eliopulos walked on four pitches. Though Schuknecht flied out on the first toss of his at-bat, Brigman came through big again, grounding one into the shortstop hole that Colt Parshall could only knock down, but not fully corral. Durna never stopped running and came around third base to score what proved to be the game-winning run. Brigman earned credit for the RBI infield single.
After one more perfect frame from Barrios, redshirt junior right-hander Cameron Kurz took over for the ninth. The Encinitas product (La Costa Canyon HS) got the first two Pioneer batters wining, before Steve Robinson belted a pinch-hit double to the wall in right. Kurz came back to calmly get Adam Hollar to pop up to Eliopulos at third base, for his team-leading seventh save.
Barrios (2-1) earned the winning decision, providing season bests of 3.0 innings pitched and five strikeouts. He allowed a single run on one hit and two walks.
The Triton rally kept junior ace Preston Mott's win-loss record unblemished at 4-0. The left-hander surrendered five runs, just two of them earned, on six hits and a season-high three walks over 5.0 innings. Mott struck out five to give him 53 for 2018.
Game Two - CSUEB 6, UCSD 1 (7)
UC San Diego went into the home sixth staring at a 6-0 deficit once again, and though it threatened for a similar-type comeback, could only manage one run in that inning, and no more in the short time remaining after that.
With two away, Durna reached via error. Clarke singled up the middle on an 0-2 pitch, and Eliopulos stung an RBI double that skipped through the right side of the infield and all the way to the wall. Blake Baumgartner drew a walk to load the bases, but senior left-hander Alex Vesia (4-2) struck out Brigman swinging to end the inning.
Vesia would go on to notch the complete game. He gave up just that unearned run, on five hits and five walks, while striking out six.
Junior right-hander Kyle Lucke (0-2) was pinned with the loss in his third straight starting assignment, going six full innings with six runs against him, four of them earned, on seven hits and one walk. He struck out three. Redshirt sophomore Blaine Jarvis tossed a perfect seventh with two groundouts around a strikeout.
Triton Notes: Alex Eliopulos and Zander Clarke are the only two Tritons to start all 28 games ... Shay Whitcomb's sixth-inning leadoff single in game one and first-inning leadoff single in the nightcap extended his team-best reached-base streak, as he has started his college career by getting on base in each of his first 27 contests.