LA JOLLA, Calif. - The University of California San Diego baseball team broke a 4-4 tie with a five-run seventh and completed the sweep of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series over Stanislaus State on Sunday at Triton Ballpark, by the final score of 9-4.
The result marks UC San Diego's first series sweep of the 2018 season. The Tritons had rallied and walked off 3-2 winners in Friday night's opener, before a dominant doubleheader sweep on Saturday, 17-2 and 9-2 in seven innings. In achieving a 20th CCAA success, UC San Diego improved to 24-13 overall and 20-12 in league play. Stan State dropped to an even 20-20 overall and 16-18 in CCAA activity. The Warriors have lost a season-high five in a row, while this matches the Tritons' longest win streak of the year, now at four games.
All 12 CCAA teams were in action in series finales in Southern California on Sunday. A 6-4 win by 19th-ranked league leader Cal State Monterey Bay (28-10, 22-10 CCAA) at sixth-place Cal Poly Pomona (20-18, 17-15 CCAA) meant a split of that set, as the Tritons remain a full two games back of the Otters. UC San Diego remains in sole possession of second, one game ahead of rival Chico State (24-16, 20-14 CCAA).
Tyler Durna went 4-for-4 with two doubles, two runs and three RBI. His second two-bagger was a two-out, two-run effort that broke that 4-4 deadlock. Fellow junior Zander Clarke followed two pitches later with a two-run single up the middle. Clarke entered the contest as a pinch-hitter in the sixth after missing his first two games of the season on Saturday due to a slight injury suffered on Friday night. On Sunday, the Tritons' leading hitter, now at a season-best .380, saw three pitches and provided two singles and two RBI.
Stanislaus State had arrived in La Jolla with the CCAA's top pitching staff in terms of team ERA, at 3.12 and ninth nationally in Division II. The Tritons scored 38 runs against the Warriors in their four meetings.
This was also UC San Diego's final CCAA series in one locale. The Tritons will round out the regular season with three straight weeks of split-venue sets, beginning this Thursday and Friday, April 19-20, against Cal State San Bernardino. First pitch at Triton Ballpark on East Campus in La Jolla is in primetime at 6 p.m. on both nights.
The teams scored two runs apiece in the opening frame. All four Warrior runs came on a pair of two-run home runs, by John Holleran in the first and Jack Large in the seventh, both to right field with two away. Holleran's second of 2018 was an opposite-field shot that just snuck over the wall, on the heels of Large's two-out, first-pitch double, also to the opposite field as the left-handed batter dropped one into left. The sophomore first baseman's own blast later was his team-best ninth. Large finished 4-for-5 with the double, home run, two runs and two RBI.
UC San Diego's two-run response in the first was ignited by a double over the centerfielder's head by freshman leadoff man Shay Whitcomb. Durna walked on four tosses, and after Whitcomb was cut down at third, redshirt junior third baseman Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) sent a single to right center for his league-leading 48th RBI. With Tritons at the corners and two away, Keenan Brigman came up with a clutch, opposite-field RBI single through the right side to level matters at 2-2.
The Tritons took their first lead through a two-run fourth. Nick Kitzmann was plunked for starters and immediately sacrificed over by Brandon Stewart, who made up for being unable to get the bunt down in his prior at-bat in the second. Whitcomb then slapped his second double of the afternoon just past the reach of the third baseman and inside the left field line, on a 2-2 pitch, to plate Kitzmann. It was back-to-back RBI doubles, as Durna traded places with Whitcomb.
The seventh saw 10 Tritons come to the plate. Senior second baseman Justin Beck's one-out walk got things going. All of the actual damage then happened with two outs, as Stewart walked and Whitcomb was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Durna dropped another base hit just beyond the reach of the second baseman behind the bag, and alertly took second for his second double as no Warrior defenders were there to cover. Clarke likewise on an 0-1 offering, lined a single right back up the middle for an 8-4 bulge. Following a second pitching change, Eliopulos singled sharply to right and junior centerfielder Christopher Schasteen notched his first double as a Triton in front of his counterpart in center on a 2-2 toss for 9-4.
Redshirt junior right-hander Cameron Kurz (Encinitas/La Costa Canyon HS) retired each of his first six batters faced as the fourth and final Triton pitcher to see action. He came on with a Warrior at first after the Large home run, and after a stolen base, got the swinging strikeout, ahead of the five-run home half. Kurz (3-0) breezed through the eighth on a flyout, swinging strikeout and called third strike. In the ninth, a double and outfield error put a runner at third after a groundout and fourth strikeout, but another ground ball ended the contest.
Starter Jack Rupe, Jr. (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS), sparkled through his five complete innings. The senior right-hander allowed two runs on the Holleran shot among six hits, and struck out eight to match his career high, against a solitary walk. In each of the first three innings, Rupe, Jr., set the first two batters down before a two-out hit. The fourth was his lone perfect frame, via swinging strikeout and two groundouts. Rupe, Jr., also turned away the leadoff man in his final frame. He froze the last batter he came up against, Michael Wyatt, with a backdoor slider with two on.
Redshirt sophomore right-hander Blaine Jarvis worked around a one-out single in a scoreless sixth with one strikeout.
Senior right-hander Tyler Murphy started on the mound for Stan State and went the first five innings. Brandon Scott (1-1) took the loss.
Whitcomb finished 2-for-5 with two doubles for the first time in his college career, a hit-by-pitch, two runs and an RBI. Eliopulos was 2-for-5 with one RBI. He also made a stellar play right up against the third base line on a soft chopper that stayed narrowly fair, producing an incredibly strong throw for the second out of the sixth.
Brigman wound up 3-for-5 with an RBI and a steal. Kitzmann was 2-for-4 with a hit-by-pitch and run scored.
Triton Notes: Alex Eliopulos is the only Triton to start or appear in all 37 games ... Nick Kitzmann's leadoff hit-by-pitch in the fourth was his team-best 15th ... Brandon Stewart's sacrifice bunt on the very next pitch was his team-best fourth ... Keenan Brigman's fifth-inning stolen base was his fifth in six attempts ... Justin Beck extended his current team-best reached-base streak to 23 games with a one-out walk in the seventh inning ... Cameron Kurz made his 13th appearance, all in relief, and first since March 30 ... Tyler Durna now has a team-best 11 doubles on the year ... UC San Diego as a team entered the series with 49 doubles, and produced 16 in four games ... Today's five doubles were the Tritons' second-most in 2018 after a season-high eight in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader.