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SoCal Weekend Wrap: Road Warriors

San Diego State's effort came up just short.

San Diego State’s effort came up short at UNLV.

The SoCal show took to the road with all but one of the 11 Southern California squads playing on the road this weekend. There were some great matchups as three premier conference battles featured top 25 squads and another four series came down to a decisive Sunday showdown.

But for two SoCal squads, the door to the postseason may have slammed shut behind them as they were ushered out by the mighty sweep broom.

We provided you with live updates on Twitter (@SoCal_CBDaily) throughout the weekend, but here’s a recap of all the weekend action:

High Heat

The High Heat this week focuses on three conference series that featured ranked league leaders facing off with a team close on their heels in the conference standings:

#4 Cal State Fullerton at #23 Cal Poly — Cal Poly entered the weekend with a chance to put a stamp on its postseason resume and possibly take the lead in the Big West Conference. The Mustangs started the weekend in the right fashion beating No. 4 Fullerton 2-1 on Friday night as Joey Wagman (7 IP, 6 H, ER) outdueled Thomas Eshelman (7.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER). Nick Torres pushed the go-ahead run across in the sixth with an RBI single and Reid Reilly picked up the save with two hitless innings.

Fullerton bounced back with a 10-5 victory on Saturday as Justin Garza (7 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 8 K) picked up his eighth win of the season. Matt Chapman and Chad Wallach both had three hits — two doubles each — and collected five RBI combined. Greg Velazquez hit his second home run of the week as well. On Sunday, Chapman brought the power stick, homering in a four-run third inning, but Poly battled back, tying the game in the eighth inning when the Titans couldn’t turn an inning-ending double play. Fullerton sealed the series win the next half inning when Austin Kingsolver beat out a potential inning-ending double play with runners on the corners. Carlos Lopez followed with an RBI single and Michael Lorenzen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to win the series and keep the Titans ahead of the pack in the Big West.

#13 UCLA at #10 Oregon  The Bruins got a huge series win on the road in the always tough atmosphere of Oregon’s PK Park. As has been the case all season, the Bruins did it with pitching. The combination of Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig at the front of the rotation and David Berg at the back end of the bullpen did the heavy lifting as UCLA blanked the Oregon offense in the first two games. Despite there not being an RBI in either game, UCLA took a pair of 1-0 wins with Plutko and Vander Tuig both going seven innings and Berg collecting the saves in both. Oregon bounced back with a 5-3 win in the series finale. The recent struggles for left-hander Grant Watson continued. He has an 8.80 ERA and hasn’t made it out of the sixth inning in his last four starts.

Pepperdine vs. #24 Gonzaga — Gonzaga took the first two games of the series behind solid pitching performances by Marco Gonzalez and Tyler Olson. Gonzalez scattered eight hits and two runs (one earned) in seven innings to beat Scott Frazier, who walked six Bulldogs, 6-3. Olson had a “performance of a career,” according to head coach Mark Machtolf, on Saturday. He threw a complete game shutout, allowing only four hits while striking out six. The Waves had a great opportunity against Olson, loading the bases for Austin Davidson in the eighth inning, but Davidson flew out to end the inning.

Pepperdine was able to salvage a 10-5 win on Sunday thanks to four RBI from Drew Hacker and a three-run homer by Chris Amezquita in support of Aaron Brown. Brown pitched his first career complete game. After allowing single runs in each of the first three innings, Brown found the groove and gave up only three hits the rest of the way.

Patrick McGrath Pitcher of the Week

McGrath helped LMU win its series.

Diamond Studs

Pitcher of the Week:
Patrick McGrath (Loyola Marymount) —
 Patrick McGrath was thrust into the weekend rotation two weeks ago with Trevor Megill being unable to go after he left his April 6 start following three scoreless innings. McGrath has been nothing but stellar in Megill’s stead. He picked up a win against No. 17 UCLA, allowing one run on three hits in five innings last weekend and followed that up with the best start of his Loyola Marymount career.

In the rubber match of an important road WCC series at San Francisco, McGrath was fantastic. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, retiring 19 straight batters after a first inning walk. He only allowed one hit through eight innings and finished with an 8 IP, 3 H, 3 R (1 ER), BB, 9 K line. The nine strikeouts were a career-high for the Southwest Community College transfer.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Doran (San Diego State), PJ Conlon (San Diego), Adam Plutko (UCLA), Nick Vander Tuig (UCLA), David Berg (UCLA), Jerry Keel (Northridge), Wyatt Strahan (USC), Andrew Morales (UC Irvine).

Kris Bryant Player of the Week 3

Bryant hit five homers for the week.

Player of the Week:
Kris Bryant (San Diego) —
 What lets you know just how good Kris Bryant is? Not that he leads the nation in home runs this season. Not that he hit two on Tuesday against Santa Barabara or another one in each game at Santa Clara to set the San Diego single-season record and give him a nation-leading 20 for the season. And not even his perfect game on Saturday when he produced a 3-for-3, R, 2B, HR, RBI, 2 BB line.

You know just how dangerous Kris Bryant is when he changes how the game is played. On Friday, he came to the plate in the ninth inning of a tie game with a runner on first base and Santa Clara decided to intentionally walk him to take its chances with the go-ahead run in scoring position rather than give him an opportunity to beat them.

Bryant finished the week 7-for-14 with one single, one double, five homers, six RBI and six walks. He’s just a man amongst boys.

Honorable Mention: Matt Chapman (Fullerton), Ranny Lowe (Pepperdine), Dominique Taylor (Irvine), Taylor Sparks (Irvine), Alexis Mercado (Northridge), Clayton Prestridge (Riverside), Timmy Robinson (USC).

Caught in ‘The Rundown’

Sweep City:

San Diego at Santa Clara — You know what lets you know how good Kris Bryant is? Not that he leads the nation in home runs this season. Not that he hit one in each game at Santa Clara to give him a nation-leading 20 for the season. And not even his perfect game on Saturday when he produced a 3-for-3, R, 2B, HR, RBI, 2 BB line.

You know just how dangerous Kris Bryant is when he comes to the plate in the ninth inning of a tie game with a runner on first base and the opposing team decides to intentionally walk him to take its chances with the go-ahead run in scoring position rather than give him an opportunity. That’s exactly what Santa Clara chose to do on Friday.

The move backfired as Broncos pitchers unintentionally walked the next two batters to put San Diego ahead. Connor Joe followed with a two-run single and the Toreros took a 7-4 win. Michael Wagner (6.1 IP, ER), Dylan Covey (6 IP, 2 ER) and PJ Conlon (6.2 IP, 0 ER) each gave San Diego quality starts and the Toreros took care of business against the Broncos, who remain winless in WCC play (0-15).

Jerry Keel

Jerry Keel allowed only an unearned run.

Cal State Northridge at Hawaii — The Matadors moved into second place in the Big West, two games behind Fullerton, thanks to a three-game sweep three time zones away. Northridge took all three games in Hawaii for its first conference road sweep since 2005. Jerry Keel didn’t let the long travel bother him or the Matadors. He was fantastic on Friday night, throwing a complete game five-hitter and allowing only one unearned run in a 4-1 win.

The Matadors just overpowered the Rainbows in the final two contests, slugging 24 hits and scoring 19 runs in 9-4 and 10-5 victories. Alexis Mercado led the offense, collecting multiple hits and RBI in all three games. He finished the series 7-for-13 with two runs, two doubles, two walks and four RBI.

Series Win:
Loyola Marymount at San Francisco  Both LMU and San Francisco were one big inning away. For the Lions, they were a six-run sixth inning by San Francisco Friday shy of recording a huge conference series sweep. Instead LMU blew a 5-2 lead and the Dons took the game 10-5.

For San Francisco, it was a two-run ninth inning on Saturday away from taking sole possession of second place in the WCC. But pinch hitter Mitchell Esser doubled down the right field line and, after a David Edwards hit by pitch, came around to score the tying run when Cullen Mahoney hit a hard shot up the middle that ricochetted off closer Adam Cimber’s leg and into right field. Edwards moved to third and came home to score the game-winning run on a Tommy Cheek groundout, giving the Lions the victory and snapping San Francisco’s eight-game winning streak.

On Sunday, Patrick McGrath staked his claim to Pitcher of the Week as the Lions secured a huge 5-3 win to take the series.

Taylor Sparks 5 H.

Taylor Sparks was 5-for-5 Saturday.

UC Irvine at Pacific – Dominique Taylor and Taylor Sparks combined to go 13-for-26 with eight runs scored and 11 RBI in UC Irvine’s series win at Pacific. The ‘Eaters took an 8-4 decision Friday night with Sparks collecting two hits and three RBI.

He bested that with a 5-for-5, 3 RBI day Saturday to go along with Taylor’s 3-for-5, 4 R, 4 RBI performance, but it wasn’t enough as a nine-run fourth inning pushed Pacific to the win. After scoring five runs in the eighth inning and a run in the ninth inning to make it 14-13, Irvine had a golden opportunity to break the Tigers’ hearts, but with the bases loaded, Jerry McClanahan grounded into a game-ending double play.

The two teams faced off in a completely different type of one-run game on Sunday as the Anteaters took a 1-0 decision behind the strong outing of Andrew Morales (8.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 8 K), who improved to 9-0 on the year. Taylor drove in the game’s only run with an RBI single in the third inning.

USC at Utah – After a 10-0 shellacking on Friday night, the Trojans bounced back with a pair of wins to take the series at Utah. Wyatt Strahan pitched well on Saturday (8 IP, 6 H, ER, 6 K) to propel USC to a 7-4 win.

But on Sunday. the Trojans did their best to make things interesting. USC jumped ahead 10-2 before letting Utah score seven runs in the sixth inning (with the assistance of three errors) before freshman reliever Kyle Davis came in and struck out two to end the threat. Davis cruised along until the ninth inning when he allowed the tying run to score on a bloop single.

The Trojans’ offense picked up Davis in the first frame of extra innings, scoring five runs, highlighted by Timmy Robinson’s two-run single to drive in his fourth and fifth runs of the day. Robinson extended his hit streak to 12 games as he had three of USC’s season-high 22 hits. Dante Flores, who returned to the lineup for the first time since hamate bone surgery in early March, had the stat line of the weekend, collecting four hits and a hat trick with three strikeouts — first time I’ve ever seen that one.

Disappointing Series Loss:
Long Beach State at UC Santa Barbara 
 David Hill carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning on Sunday and Long Beach took an 8-4 victory on Sunday to salvage a game at UC Santa Barbara. It was just what the Dirtbags needed after dropping a pair of one-run games on Friday and Saturday. Shane Carle allowed two runs in the first inning and took a tough-luck 2-1 loss on Friday. The Dirtbags put runners on the corners with one out in the ninth inning, but couldn’t get the productive out or big hit it needed.

Long Beach scored three runs in the sixth inning to take a 4-3 lead in the second game only to have Santa Barbara score a run in the eighth inning to tie it and then walk-off with the win on a Cameron Newell bases loaded single in the ninth inning. Jeff McNeil reached base eight times and Michael Hill had three extra base hits, including his third home run.

Haynal two HR

Brad Haynal’s two HR game was spoiled

San Diego State at UNLV — What a devastating weekend for the Aztecs! Heading to the bottom of the seventh inning, they led 8-3 on Friday, 2-0 on Saturday and were tied 2-2 on Sunday. San Diego State lost all three and went from one game behind New Mexico to four games back in the Mountain West. On Friday night, UNLV scored three in the seventh, one in the eighth and tied the game on a Erik VanMeetren double with two outs to steal the thunder from Brad Haynal’s two home run, five RBI game. VanMeetren provided the go-ahead two-run single on Saturday and a two-run double to put the Rebels ahead in their final at bat Sunday. A game-tying ninth inning RBI and two game-winning RBI hits in his team’s final at bat — what a weekend for VanMeetren. The series sweep may have also crushed any chance the Aztecs had at an at-large berth.

UC Riverside at UC Davis — The Highlanders blew all chances of making a run in the Big West this weekend. Entering tied for second place, two games behind Fullerton, Riverside got swept by previously winless UC Davis. Trailing 4-3 in their final at bat Friday, the Highlanders put two runners on but had a runner caught stealing and grounded into a double play. They also trimmed Davis’ lead to 4-3 in the eighth inning on Saturday before giving up three runs to seal the game. The Aggies pounded Riverside for 19 runs on Sunday to hand the Highlanders their fourth straight loss and their ninth loss in 13 games, dropping them under .500 for the first time in a month and a half.

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