Five home runs and a strong pitching performance by Tim Shibuya led the seventh-ranked UC San Diego baseball team to a 9-6 win over Cal Poly Pomona in first round action of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Tournament Thursday at Klein Family Field on the campus of the University of the Pacific.
Top-seeded UCSD scored at least one run in each of the first four innings, including four in the third, for its 18th consecutive win. The Tritons, who are gunning for a threepeat of tourney titles, upped their season record to 39-12. Cal Poly Pomona, the fourth seed, ended up making the game tight in the later innings with four runs in the eighth and two in the ninth, but fell to 30-20 with the loss.
The Tritons got two home runs each from catcher Kellen Lee and center fielder Danny Susdorf, and one out of first baseman Blake Tagmyer. The five home runs were the most hit by the Tritons in a single game since bashing six at Cal State San Bernardino on Apr. 2 of 2010.
Shibuya, who was just named the CCAA Co-Pitcher of the Year on Wednesday, improved to 11-3 as he gave up no runs on five hits while striking out nine and walking just one over seven full innings.
"Our guys did a great job of getting themselves ready to play today," said UCSD head coach Dan O'Brien, who was named the league's Coach of the Year for the third straight time on Wednesday after leading the Tritons to the CCAA regular season title. "In my mind, they've set the tone for the entire postseason."
Shibuya cruised through the top half of the first inning as he struck out the side, two of which were looking.
UCSD took an early lead in the first. Susdorf led off with a double to right center and took third on a ground out. He crossed the plate when right fielder Kyle Saul singled to left with two outs.
In the second, Shibuya struck out the first two batters, one swinging and one looking, and then induced a ground ball out to end the frame in order.
Lee homered on the first pitch he saw to lead off the bottom of the second. He took starter Erick Ruvalcaba's offering over the left field wall, just inside the foul pole for his fifth long ball of the season to put UC San Diego up 2-0.
After Shibuya retired his seventh and eighth straight batters, Cal Poly Pomona got its first hit in the top of the third as third baseman Humberto Tovalin doubled to the fence in right field with two outs. No harm done as Shibuya promptly picked Tovalin off second base. Shortstop Garrett Tuck missed the original tag but Tovalin came off the bag and Tuck laid a second tag on him to end the inning.
In the bottom half of the third, Tagmyer put UCSD up 4-0 with a two-run blast to right that cleared the fence by a ton. It scored left fielder Aaron Bauman, who had walked to lead off the inning. Lee struck again as he hit his second home run of the day and team-leading sixth of the season, also a two-run shot, to cushion the margin even more at 6-0. His bomb to center was just to the right of the 405-foot marker. It was the second time this season Lee had homered twice in a game as he belted two at Cal Poly Pomona on Mar. 26, not against Ruvalcaba but Kevin Bosson. The Tritons hit four home runs in that game.
The Broncos had a runner on third in the fourth inning, but couldn't score him.
Once again, Susdorf led off an inning with a hit, this time a home run. The first homer of his season, it came against Shane Phillips, who was in to relieve Ruvalcaba. The Tritons' fourth home run of the afternoon put them up 7-0.
UC San Diego put two runners on base in the fifth, but it ended up as the first inning the Tritons didn't score. With two outs, Tuck and Susdorf were each hit by a pitch, but both were left stranded.
The Broncos threatened again in the seventh. Right fielder Jordan Whitman led off with a deep shot to center that hopped over the fence for a ground rule double, CPP's fifth hit of the game off Shibuya. The right hander got the next two batters, one on a flyout, the other on a called third strike. Designated hitter Tyson Edwards then came to the plate and had a couple of scary connections, including a line drive that landed just foul down the right field line. However, Shibuya caught Edwards looking, stranding Whitman in scoring position on second base. It was Shibuya's ninth and final K of the game.
Tony York came on to pitch for the Tritons in the top of the eighth. After surrendering a leadoff single to left fielder Stephen Gonzales, he got Tovalin to pop up for the first out. Shortstop Mike Santora then spoiled the shutout as he doubled off the top of the fence in left-center to score Gonzales and bring the score to 7-1 in favor of the Tritons. Santora moved to third on a ground out and scored CPP's second run on an infield error with two outs. That set the stage for Whitman, who took York deep to left for a two unearned run job, bringing the Broncos within three at 7-4. York was pulled in favor of usual closer Elias Tuma, who got catcher Jenzen Torres to fly out to right to end the rally.
Who else but Susdorf led off UCSD's half of the eighth and he drilled a 1-0 pitch from John Pollock over the left field fence for his second home run of the game. With one out and a runner on second, Bronco second baseman Ryan Goodman made a diving stop on a ground ball by Tagmyer that surely looked as if it was heading through the right side of the infield. Goodman made a strong, accurate throw from his knees to get Tagmyer at first for the second out. However, Saul took a ball back up the middle for an RBI base hit that scored pinch runner Scott Liske from second, putting the Tritons up 9-4.
Tuma started the ninth on the mound and struck out the first batter he faced. Eric Abraham then relieved Tuma and gave up a walk and a single before Tovalin gapped a ball to left-center for a two-run double, making the score 9-6. Justin Burns replaced Abraham and he got the inning's huge second out on a fly ball to center. Tovalin tagged and made it to third safely. Goodman worked the count to 2-1 before flying out to left field, giving Burns his third save and the Tritons the victory.
Susdorf and Saul, both 2011 All-CCAA performers, each had three hits and two RBI. Susdorf crossed the plate three times. Lee finished 2-for-3 with two runs and three RBI plus a walk.
Ruvalcaba (4-3) lasted 3.0 innings and gave up six runs on seven hits. He struck out one and walked a pair. The Broncos, who were out-hit 12-10 by the Tritons, got three hits from Whitman and two each from Santora, Gonzalez and Tovalin. UCSD held center fielder Travis Taijeron, the CCAA's Most Valuable Player, hitless in three at-bats. He scored a run and walked once.
"Our home runs today were a direct result of quality at-bats up and down the lineup," said O'Brien after picking up the 451st victory of his career at UCSD. "We did a great job on a very good starting pitcher today."
UCSD will now play third-seeded Chico State on Friday at 3 p.m. The Wildcats crushed Sonoma State, the No. 2 seed, 22-9 Thursday night. Cal Poly Pomona will take on Sonoma at 11 a.m. Friday in an elimination game.
Friday's semifinal against the Wildcats will be covered by Live Stats as well as an online audio broadcast courtesy of Chico State. The winner will advance to Saturday's championship game (2 p.m.) while the loser will play in an elimination game Friday at 7 p.m. against the loser of the Sonoma State/Cal Poly Pomona game.