San Diego closer Drew Jacobs celebrates after nailing down a dramatic save vs. Tulane (Aaron Fitt)

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Fitt: Saturday Takeaways From San Diego

SAN DIEGO — It will be an all-SoCal matchup in the championship game of the inaugural Tony Gwynn Classic, as UC Santa Barbara and San Diego slugged their way to victories in their first two games to reach the finals Sunday at 10:30 a.m. PT at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

The Gauchos outscored Kentucky and Bryant by a combined score of 27-6 over the last two days, while the Toreros beat Nebraska and Tulane by a combined score of 24-11. Neither team has a lot of pitching left (USD also played a game Thursday against San Diego State), so expect more offensive fireworks in the championship game.

After watching both games at San Diego State on Friday, I caught the Nebraska-Arizona and USD-Tulane contests Saturday at USD’s Fowler Park. Both were very competitive, back-and-forth, high-scoring affairs. After losing 11-10 to Tulane on Friday, Arizona bounced back to beat Nebraska 11-10 in 10 innings Saturday. And San Diego held off Tulane’s late charge to win 7-6 in the nightcap. After getting swept at Vanderbilt last weekend (losing the final two games by a combined 30-7), the Toreros have bounced back strong with three straight wins.

“I think the main thing our guys took from Vanderbilt was, ‘Hey, you know, they’re obviously one of the top teams in the country for a reason, they have been for a while,’” said USD shortstop Bryson Brigman. “After playing them, we were kind of like, ‘Hey, we’ve played pretty much the top, now, you’re not the same as Vanderbilt, we can come out and compete you and beat you guys, you know?’

“I was really excited with how the guys kind of stayed with it. We jumped up early a little bit (7-2), and as they started to come back, our guys really stayed with it. We had a couple key pitches in some big spots that got us out of some big jams, a couple good plays. A full team effort today, and we just pulled it out.”

Here are some notes and observations about all four teams I saw Saturday.

San Diego 7, Tulane 6.

• San Diego has a rising star in freshman lefthander Nick Sprengel, who looks like a potential first-round pick in 2018. Sprengel battled through 5 1/3 innings Saturday, scattering nine hits but allowing just two runs while striking out six. He offers plus velocity from the left side, firing 93-94 mph heat in the first inning and settling into the 91-93 range thereafter, occasionally touching 94 and even bumping 95 once. His slider was particularly impressive in the early innings, showing good power and serious tilt at 80-83 mph. He got lefthanded hitters to chase it but also used it effectively to the back foot against righties, and he threw it for a strike when needed. It got a little more slurvy later in the game, coming in at 77-78 mph, but it’s a plus pitch when he throws it with more power.


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