From April 27 to April 28, the UC San Diego Tritons baseball team split a four-game series with the California State University, Los Angeles Golden Eagles 2–2. The two wins for the Tritons clinched a California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament berth for the fifth straight year. Tournament play will begin on May 9.
Triton bats proved too much for CSULA in the 6–3 victory in game one of the four-game set. UCSD added one to its win streak extending it to a season-long nine games without a loss.
Senior starting pitcher Mitch Hickey got the ball on Thursday and delivered for the Tritons. Hickey finished with 5.1 strong innings of pitching allowing only 6 hits while striking out 3 and picking up a win. Hickey struggled early in the game allowing the CSULA Golden Eagles to jump out to an early 2–0 lead in the top of the first inning. Shortly after, Hickey settled in and only allowed 3 hits and no runs for the remainder of his outing.
UCSD wasted no time answering back to the Golden Eagles, putting up 2 runs in the bottom of the first tying the game 2–2. Freshman shortstop Shay Whitcomb led the inning off with a 4-pitch walk, then back-to-back doubles by redshirt junior right fielder Zander Clarke and redshirt junior third baseman Alex Eliopulos knocked in both Whitcomb and Clarke. The game would remain tied at 2 runs for several innings.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Tritons took advantage of sloppy play by the Golden Eagles and tacked on 3 more runs which would be all they would need for the rest of the game. Redshirt sophomore catcher Nick Kitzmann was hit by a pitch and redshirt freshman center fielder Brandon Stewart followed that with an infield bunt single back to the pitcher. After that, CSULA junior starting pitcher Angel Lerma was clearly frustrated and lost command of his pitches, hitting Whitcomb to load the bases with only one out. He was not the only Golden Eagle in his own head; following a ground ball by junior first baseman Tyler Durna, Golden Eagles senior first baseman Nic Bereaud committed a throwing error on a routine play which allowed Kitzmann to score giving the Tritons a 3–2 lead. Next up, Clarke came up big again for the Tritons, giving them a couple insurance runs on a 2-RBI single to center field, his second and third RBIs of the game.
After a meaningless seventh-inning run by the Golden Eagles, the Tritons held on for the 6–3 victory. Redshirt junior Cameron Kurz worked a scoreless 1.1 innings, closing out the game for his 8th save on the season.
After Thursday night’s victory, the Tritons saw the end of their nine-game winning streak on Friday, dropping game two of the series 6–5. This was a seesaw battle featuring 4 lead changes that ended with the Tritons on the bottom.
Junior southpaw Preston Mott got the ball on Friday night but was knocked around for 10 hits on only five innings pitched. Mott was able to limit the damage to only 3 runs, but ultimately the bullpen was not effective either, allowing 3 runs in their four innings of work. Mott finished the night with a no-decision.
The Tritons got the game started off well putting up a run in the bottom of the first inning. Eliopulos knocked in right fielder Clarke who had reached on a 2-out error by Golden Eagles junior starting pitcher Joey Deceglie.
The Eagles soared right back and put up a run to tie the game in the top of the second and the Tritons themselves answered back in the bottom half, taking the lead 2–1.
After a scoreless third inning, both teams would score again in the fourth with the Golden Eagles putting up a run and tying the game 2–2. The Tritons answered back again, putting up 3, moving the game to 5–2. Whitcomb is responsible for the 3 runs as he launched a homer deep over the left center field wall and into the twilight sky.
The Tritons’ pitching could not hold this lead as they gave up 3 runs over the next 2 innings which left the game tied at 5–5 going into the ninth.
In the top half of the ninth inning with Tritons closer Kurz on the mound, the Golden Eagles were able to score the go-ahead run on a pair of hits from senior designated hitter Jorge Garcia and senior center fielder Sean Watkins. With their backs against the wall in the bottom of the ninth, the Tritons were unable to tie the game, losing 6–5. This was a heartbreaking loss for the Tritons as not only did they blow a 3-run lead, but their season-high nine-game win streak came to an end.
After splitting the first two games of the series at Triton Ballpark, the series moved to Los Angeles for a Saturday double-header to round out the final two games of the series.
In game three of the series, the Tritons pounded the Golden Eagles 11–4 and avenged their win streak which had ended the day before.
The Tritons struck first in the third inning, putting up 3 runs on 3 hits. Redshirt sophomore utility Steven Schuknecht led off the third inning with a single toward right field and was followed by another redshirt sophomore, left fielder Keenan Brigman, who also had a base hit to right field putting runners on the corners. After a wild pitch, Schuknecht crossed home and Brigman advanced to second. Redshirt freshman center fielder Brandon Stewart reached on an error and then stole second while Brigman stole third. Durna knocked in both runners on an opposite field double down the left field line, giving the Tritons a 3–0 lead.
The Tritons put up 3 more runs in the top of the fourth inning thanks to an RBI double by Schuknecht, an RBI single by Brigman, and an RBI single by Clarke which in total put the Tritons up 6–0. Triton bats were hot all night as they put up 2 more runs in the fifth inning and 3 more in the eighth inning for 11 total runs on the night.
Every Triton hitter reached base safely in game three, runs were scored by seven different players, and runs were knocked in by six different players. The Tritons showed that hitting is truly contagious and they all got sick together, scoring 15 total hits. Brigman was especially locked in that day as he had 3 hits, 3 runs, and an RBI.
Triton arms were good in game three as it only took the work of two pitchers to get through all nine innings. Senior starting pitcher Jack Rupe, Jr. pitched six strong innings allowing only 3 runs and freshman relief pitcher Cameron Leonard followed suit with three strong innings of his own picking up his second save of the year as the Tritons won this one 11–4.
This was the Tritons’ 30th win of the year and clinched them a spot in the CCAA Championship for the fifth straight season
After the nine-inning daytime victory, UCSD could not come back in a seven-inning loss of 7–5.
UCSD looked to be in business early as in the top of the first inning, Durna and Clarke both drew walks, giving the Tritons a runner in scoring position with only 1 out in the first. Sadly for the Tritons, they could not cash in as the next two batters were sent down in order.
CSULA, however, did cash in on its first-inning opportunity. With two outs in the bottom of the first and runners on the corners, Golden Eagles junior left fielder Spencer Sundahl singled, knocking in two runs and giving the Golden Eagles a 2–0 lead. The Golden Eagles added 1 more to their lead in the bottom of the third inning after a triple and single off Tritons junior starting pitcher Jonah Dipoto.
Dipoto never quite settled in, as the Tritons’ pitcher was knocked around for 7 hits and 6 earned runs in 5.2 innings.
The Tritons showed signs of life in the top of the fourth when Whitcomb singled to center field scoring DH Blake Baumgartner. Durna followed that with a clutch 2-RBI double, scoring Whitcomb and Brigman.
CSULA counter-attacked this Triton resurgence with 4 runs of its own in the bottom of the sixth which pushed Dipoto out of the game.
Down 7–3 going into the bottom of the seventh, the Tritons needed a comeback but came up just short, losing the game 7–5.
With the loss, the Tritons split the series 2–2 and move to 30–16 on the year. Next week, the Tritons square off against California State University, San Marcos in another four-game series rounding out the regular season before starting tournament play on May 9.