Tritons lose heartbreaker to Utah in 11th inning

Tritons lose heartbreaker to Utah in 11th inning
Photo by Keita Kobayashi/ UCSD Guardian

The UC San Diego Tritons (3–1, 0–0 Big West) hosted the Utah Utes (3–1, 0–0 Pac-12) on Friday night at Triton Ballpark, looking to bounce back after a devastating extra-innings loss to their cross-town rivals, the University of San Diego Toreros, on Wednesday. UCSD opened the year with a three-game sweep of the Spartans at home and was poised to keep the good vibes flowing at home in front of the Triton faithful.

 

Suitably, the Tritons trotted out the same pitcher who was on the bump in the opener against San Jose State University. Junior pitcher Ryan Forcucci, last week’s Big West pitcher of the week, got the ball for the Tritons for his second straight Friday night start. Despite the junior’s dominant opening night and the Tritons’ exuberant pregame vibes, the Utes came out swinging.

 

Utah’s leadoff hitter doubled to open the top of the first inning. He would then score the game’s first run on an error by junior third baseman Matt Halbach. The Utes turned to a sacrifice bunt, but Halbach’s throwing error allowed the runner to advance home. The bunter on the previous play stole second on the ensuing at-bat, then scored on a sacrifice fly later in the inning, putting the Utes up 2–0 after one frame. 

 

Despite a leadoff HBP, the Tritons could not manufacture a run of their own in the bottom of the first. Utah, however, was ready to add insult to injury in the second. The Utes led off with a line-drive single. After a walk, Utah bunted for a single to load the bases with no outs. On the next at-bat, Utah bunted directly back to the pitcher, Forcucci, who had a 1-2-3 double play at his fingertips. However, in baseball, nothing is a gimme. Forcucci airmailed senior catcher Emiliano Gonzalez on his throw home, and the run scored. After a near-perfect opening night outing, Forcucci allowed 3 runs on 4 hits and 2 errors, including an error of his own, in 4 innings on Friday night.

 

Utah led 3–0 through two innings. You could hear a pin drop at Triton Ballpark, but not for long.

 

In the third inning, junior right fielder Nick Costello walked and stole second base. With one out, Halbach vindicated himself and shot a double into the left-centerfield gap, scoring Costello for UCSD’s first run of the night.

 

In the fifth inning, redshirt senior pitcher Izaak Martinez took the ball. The southpaw, who did not allow a hit on opening night, threw 6 scoreless innings and surrendered just 2 hits on Friday night. Martinez kept the Tritons within striking distance for a comeback, and come back is exactly what they did.

 

In the bottom of the fifth inning, freshman center fielder Michael Crossland reached on an infield single. Later in the inning, senior second baseman Benjamin Rosengard singled to score Crossland. In the eighth, after stranding two runners in the fifth inning, the Tritons made sure to cash in. Rosengard led off the eighth inning with a double, and redshirt junior first baseman Doyle Kane walked. Redshirt sophomore Patrick Hackworth followed with a beautifully-placed bunt to load the bases with nobody out. Gonzalez stepped up to the plate and tied the game with a sacrifice fly.

 

After another shutdown inning from Martinez, all signs pointed to a Tritons’ walk-off victory in the ninth. For whatever reason, the momentum did not carry from the eighth to the ninth, and the Tritons went down in order.

 

In extra innings, both teams posted donuts in the 10th inning. In the 11th inning, left-handed senior Ryan Rissas took the mound for the Tritons. Rissas got an out to begin the inning but walked the next batter. The next Ute bunted to UCSD’s Halbach, who committed his second throwing error of the game. Halbach’s mishap allowed the runner to go from first to third, putting Utes on the corners with one out. Utah dialed up a squeeze bunt that brought home the go-ahead run on a controversial close call at the plate. 

 

From my vantage point — the second row behind home plate, which had a clear view of the game-winning play — it appeared that Tritons’ catcher Gonzales tagged Utah’s runner before the player’s hand touched home plate. Unfortunately, with no challenge or review procedure, the run counted and held up as the game-winner. The Tritons lost 4–3 in a controversial, head-scratching extra innings affair.

 

On the bright side, the Tritons played a doubleheader against the Missouri Tigers on Saturday and split the pair. The Tritons also faced Loyola Marymount on Sunday in their final game of the Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament. They continue their season at home next week with a series against Stephen F. Austin State University.

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About the Contributors
Wyatt Bose, Staff Writer
Wyatt is a first-year political science student, an ardent sports-watcher, an impassioned Philadelphia sports fan, and the founder of his sports blog, "The Cogent Column."
Keita Kobayashi, Photo Associate Editor
Photo team, best team (W.I.P)
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