UCSD Baseball Falls Short in NCAA National Championship

This week, the UC San Diego Tritons baseball team ended its season with a pair of losses versus Columbus State University and Southern New Hampshire University. UCSD’s season came to a close as they came up just short of the NCAA Division II National Championship. Although the season ended before the Tritons wanted, this was still a largely impressive season. This year, the Tritons recorded 43 wins with only 17 losses, good enough to win them the California Collegiate Athletic Association Title and go deep into the Division II National Championship Tournament.

Game One:

After a win on Sunday, the Tritons matched up with Columbus State on Tuesday and suffered a 0–6 loss. This was the Tritons first loss in the winner’s bracket which put them at a disadvantage going forward in the double-elimination tournament.

The Tritons’ offense was stumped all day as they were only able to muster 4 hits in the 0–6 loss. The usual slugging top of the lineup was ineffective on Tuesday as the top three hitters went a combined 0–13. Third hitter redshirt junior outfielder Zander Clarke was the only one of the UCSD’s top three hitters to get on base as he drew a walk in the bottom of the eighth inning.  

The Tritons had chances but could not cash in on several opportunities. Four separate times they stranded two runners on base. This happened in the second, fourth, eighth, and ninth innings. The Tritons were patient as they took 8 walks in the nine innings but never were able to capitalize on the Columbus State mistakes. This was a frustrating night for the Tritons as it seemed like every time they had some momentum, it was brought to a screeching halt. In the eighth inning, after loading the bases with only one out, redshirt sophomore left fielder Keenan Brigman bounced into a double play, ending the Tritons short-lived rally,

Junior left-handed pitcher Preston Mott was on the mound on Tuesday but was not his usual self. Mott had been great all season for the Tritons as he entered Tuesday’s game with an impressive 8–1 record. However, Tuesday was a rare off night for Mott as he struggled to miss bats all night. Mott was forced out of the game after 4.1 innings after allowing 5 runs, 8 hits, and 2 walks. The bullpen was great on Tuesday, especially right-handed sophomore Ted Stuka who pitched 2.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts. Although the bullpen finished the game strong, it did not matter as the Tritons were not able to pull themselves out of the 6-run deficit and fell at the hands of Columbus State.  

This was not the end of the Tritons tournament as although they lost, a double-elimination tournament affords a team 2 losses before elimination. The Tritons got another shot to keep their tournament hopes alive on Wednesday versus Southern New Hampshire University.

Game Two:

After a loss on Wednesday, the Tritons were in “win-or-go-home” mode on Thursday as one more meant the end of their season. Sadly, that loss did indeed come on Thursday as the Tritons were beaten by the Southern New Hampshire Penmen by a score of 4–7 ending the Tritons’ 2018 season and championship hopes.

The Penmen got out to an early lead and never looked back. On the third pitch thrown by Tritons starting pitcher senior Jack Rupe, Penman third baseman Tom Blandini gave the Penmen the lead with a homer over the right field wall. Rupe never really settled in, as after the first inning homer, he allowed 3 more runs in the second and 2 more in the third. Rupe exited after 2.1 innings with the Tritons down 0–5. Before the third inning was over, the Penmen notched up 2 more runs off right-handed relief pitcher junior Kyle Lucke, one of which was credited to Rupe. After 3 innings the Tritons were in a big 0–7 hole that they were not able to dig themselves out of.

These were the only runs the Penmen were able to put up all game as the Tritons bullpen shut them down for the remaining 6 innings. What should not be forgotten in this game is the performance by redshirt junior relief pitcher Cameron Kurz. Kurz entered the game with one out in the fourth inning and was lights-out in the remaining innings. Kurz finished the game with a 4.2 perfect innings and kept the Tritons in the game.

In the top of the fifth inning, the Tritons finally snapped their 17-inning scoreless drought with a leadoff home run by redshirt junior designated hitter Michael Palos. The Tritons chipped into the deficit once more in the sixth as they scored another run on a pair of hits by senior second baseman Justin Beck and junior first baseman Tyler Durna. This kept the game interesting as the Tritons had cut the deficit from 7 runs to only 5.

The Tritons kept the faith and put 2 more up in the seventh which brought the game within striking distance at 4–7 thanks to a sacrifice fly by Keenan Brigman and RBI single by Zander Clarke.

This was the last bit of offense the Tritons had as they did not put up any more runs in the remaining 2 innings resulting in the 4–7 loss.

This was the end of the Tritons season and although it did not end with a championship, this year yielded some unforgettable moments and achievements. The Tritons will be back in action next season at Triton Ballpark as they continue their journey to capture the NCAA Division II National Championship.

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