No. 10 Dixie State opened its 2017 NCAA West Region tournament run on a sour note as the third-seeded Trailblazers bowed to fourth-seed No. 14 UC San Diego, 5-2, on Thursday night at Azusa Pacific University’s Cougar Baseball Complex.
UCSD (37-17) drew first blood in the third inning as the Tritons cashed in a pair of one-out baserunners with a three-run home run off the bat of Brandon Shirley to bolt out to a 3-0 lead.
Dixie State (37-13-1), which had the leadoff batter reach base with a hit in each of the first three innings, loaded the bases with one out in the frame thanks to a Bryce Feist leadoff single, followed by a Triton fielding error and a Trey Kamachi base knock. However, the Trailblazers only managed to plate one run, which came on a Logan Porter RBI sacrifice fly that trimmed the deficit to 3-1.
Junior starter Dylan File shook off his third-inning hiccup as he set down eight of the next 11 Tritons he faced om his next three innings of work, including a highlight-reel double play to end the fifth to quell a potential UCSD rally. With two on and one out, File induced a JD Hearn fly out to Kamachi in center field, who then fired a strike to Feist at third base to cut down the Tritons’ lead runner to end the threat.
Porter then led off the DSU sixth with an opposite-field solo homer down the right field line to draw the Trailblazers to within a run at 3-2. Porter’s home run, his ninth of the year, also pulled him into a tie atop DSU’s single-season RBIs list (68 RBIs) with former DSU player Drew Oldfield (68, 2009).
After File retired UCSD in order in the seventh, Feist again reached on a leadoff single in the home half of the stanza, but again the Trailblazers were turned away by the Tritons. UC San Diego then countered with a pair of insurance runs in the eighth on a Justin Flatt pinch-hit two-out double to extend to a 5-2 advantage.
Dixie State mounted one more charge in the ninth as the Trailblazers managed to get the tying run to the plate after a Miles Bice leadoff single and a Drew McLaughlin two-out safety. Tyler Baker then stepped up and hit a towering fly ball to right field, but Triton outfielder Jack Larsen made the catch at the base of the fence to end the game.
Dixie State lost despite outhitting UCSD by a 10-7 count as seven of the nine offensive starters had at least one hit, however, the Trailblazers could not get the timely hit as they stranded nine runners on base. McLaughlin, Bice and Feist each collected two hits to pace the DSU offense. File (L, 8-2) pitched into the eighth and struck out six, though he surrendered four runs and six hits in seven official innings of work.
UCSD hurler Troy Cruz (W, 8-2) went the distance in a 137-pitch complete effort, allowing just the two runs (one earned) with three strikeouts, to pick up his eighth win of the season.
Dixie State looks to extend its season Friday as the Trailblazers face No. 6-seed Cal Poly Pomona at 3 p.m. PT. Cal Poly Pomona outlasted top-seed Chico State, 8-7, in 10 innings earlier in the day Thursday, while No. 2-seed Azusa Pacific defeated fifth-seeded California Baptist, 3-1, in the first game of the day. CBU and Chico State will square off in an elimination game at 11 a.m., and APU and UCSD will wrap up play on day two beginning at 7 p.m.
Steve Johnson is the Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations and Collegiate Licensing at Dixie State University. For more DSU Athletics news, please visit www.dixieathletics.com and follow Dixie State on Twitter at @DixieAthletics.