UCSD softball concluded its 2016 season this past week in the NCAA West Regionals Tournament. Prior to regionals, the Tritons had earned the nomination by winning the 2016 California Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament. UCSD, finishing with a 37–21 overall record, traveled to Azusa Pacific where the team ultimately lost to APU 2–0, beat Dixie State 2–1 and was eliminated from playoffs by Central Washington 6–5.
Game 1 – Azusa Pacific 2, UCSD 0
The Tritons fell to the Cougars in the West Regional opener on Thursday after their offense was unable to garner any runs. Though solid in defense, UCSD only produced three hits throughout the seven innings.
The first half of the game fell into a stalemate as both teams didn’t produce any runs. It wasn’t until the fourth inning when APU scored the only two runs of the day. With runners on first and second, senior catcher Madison Hernandez hit an RBI single to center field. Sophomore first baseman Kayla Jimenez followed with a two-out RBI single to second base.
The Tritons had an opportunity to respond during the fifth inning with the bases loaded and one out. Unfortunately, freshman third baseman Maddy Lewis struck out and sophomore second baseman Kendall Baker hit into a force-out at third.
Senior pitcher Lexi Edwards got the loss while spanning six innings on six hits and two earned runs. Cougars’ senior pitcher Narissa Garcia, in turn, powered through seven innings and gave up only three hits.
Game 2 – UCSD 2, Dixie State 1
UCSD led Dixie State Friday afternoon and shut their team down Saturday to resist elimination. The game was delayed due to rain; after the game resumed, the players were able to conclude the game after the last three innings.
The Trailblazers put the first run on the board in the first inning. However, junior outfielder Shelby Yung, who reached and advanced to second on a throwing error, scored on senior catcher Autumn Woodfall’s double to left.
UCSD’s first run came in the top third inning with runners on second and third. With two outs, senior shortstop McKenna Clewett singled up the middle and drove in Baker while senior outfielder Taylor Abeyta, who was at second, was thrown out at home.
The winning run was scored during the fifth inning when sophomore outfielder Kelsi Maday hit a fly ball to deep right field. Baker scored on the sacrifice fly which gave her the second run of the night.
Senior pitcher Hannah Duarte earned her sixth win after she gave up no runs and only two hits. However, senior pitcher Aryn Feickert received the loss after pitching all seven innings and allowing two runs. With the win, the Tritons avoided elimination from the tournament and advanced to play the No. 2-seeded Central Washington.
Game 3 – Central Washington 6, UCSD 5
The Tritons’ late rally proved to be not enough in a heartbreaking loss to the Wildcats Saturday afternoon; they saw their hopes and season come to an end as the last batter sophomore catcher Lauren Sanders popped up in foul territory.
The first three runs of Central Washington were brought on by senior pitcher Brielle Copodonna’s three-run homer in the first inning where the Wildcats scored another run in the second inning on a bases-loaded walk from freshman pitcher Lauren Brown.
UCSD scored its first two in the third inning. With two runners on after a single and hit by pitch, Sanders managed to hit a two-out single to left center and brought in two runs.
Central Washington, however, drove in a couple more runs in the fifth inning. After redshirt senior catcher Austin Wilkerson cracked a solo shot and senior third baseman Andrea Hamada hit an RBI single by the end of the fifth inning, CWU had a comfortable 6–2 lead.
The seventh inning saw the Tritons come together and maintain composure as they put up a late rally. UCSD loaded the bases with one out on a couple singles and a reach. Abeyta and Maday followed with singles of their own, bringing in sophomore third baseman Rachel Phillips, Baker and Lewis. The final two outs were recorded on Abeyta’s attempted steal of third and Sander’s pop up. UCSD lost 5–6 and was taken out of the playoffs.
Brown, now 12–7, gave up four runs in her 1.1 inning start and got the loss. CWU’s junior pitcher Kiana Wood earned the win in her four-run complete game.
Maday, who led the team with 64 hits and 40 RBIs on the season, also ties the single-season run record with 54. Edwards finished her senior year with a team-leading 16 wins and an impressive 1.96 ERA. Maddy Lewis was the CCAA’s Freshman of the Year.
Though eliminated, UCSD put up a tough fight the entire season and ended on a good note. The team’s 37–21 record is a 12-win improvement compared to last season, and the late rally signified that Tritons don’t give up until the very last outing. Head coach Patti Gerckens and UCSD will return in 2017 and look to claim the title.