It's Time to Play Ball!

    The UCSD softball team is venturing into uncharted territory, hoping for a new beginning but with the same positive results.

    This is the first season that the team will participate at the competitive Division II level.

    At the Division III level, the Tritons held their own. Just last year, they went 25-13 and earned a playoff berth. This year’s competition will be much tougher, but the team hopes to still make some waves.

    With the move up to a higher division comes something else — a home in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. The CCAA is regarded as the best Division II conference in the nation.

    “”First of all, we’re very excited about it,”” said Triton head coach Patti Gerckens. “”I don’t really know a lot about the conference. I know the teams are strong. I don’t know if the strength is more in the pitching or in the hitting.””

    The move up to a different and harder level requires a different approach to how the Tritons will deal with new nemeses.

    “”We’re adjusting, we’re working on a higher intensity level,”” Gerckens said. “”People have a lot of confidence right now. They believe in themselves, they believe in each other. The team chemistry at this point is probably stronger at the beginning of the season … than ever before. It’s all new, so there are a lot of uncertainties, definitely.””

    UCSD is bringing back a number of top players from last year’s playoff team.

    Senior Michelle Wilson, who batted .366 last year, can be found in right field. Senior Jeanine Cordero also will be returning, as will senior Christina Searing at second base, bringing her .579 slugging percentage. The always-dangerous sophomore Kristin Hunstead will be back behind the plate. Juniors Samantha Hayes and Kristina Anderson are also coming back.

    “”We have a lot of strength, but I don’t know [how much] compared to what we’re going to face,”” Gerckens said.

    Leea Harlan will again take the mound and be the No. 1 pitcher. She finished last year with a 15-6 record and a .88 ERA.

    Also in the pitching rotation will be junior newcomer Christy Martineli.

    “”We only have two pitchers, but a lot of teams only have two pitchers,”” Gerckens said. “”We’re not going to have the luxury of having the third pitcher. We’re going to have to see.””

    New talent coming through will also be strong, including up-and-comers such as Angie Carr in the outfield, Amy Mettee in the infield and Kim Aggabao at second base.

    “”We have some incredible, talented new people,”” Gerckens said.

    Gerckens understands the challenge before her team.

    Many tough teams in the CCAA will be licking their chops in anticipation of the new kids on the block.

    “”We’ll get hit,”” she said. “”I know we’re going to get hit, but I also think we will hit.””

    Gerckens believes that her team will be strong at the plate and in the field, enabling UCSD to keep stride with other schools.

    “”I think our offense is going to be strong,”” Gerckens said. “”I also think our defense is going to be strong. We’re just going to see how much we’re challenged if we’re put on the defensive right away. Obviously, that’s nobody’s goal. Our goal is to score first and put the other team on the defense.””

    All in all, it looks as if the Tritons are ready for the upcoming softball season.

    “”The team has been practicing hard,”” Gerckens said. “”They’re really focused and they’re excited about being in a conference.””

    The Tritons’ first game will be Saturday, Feb. 3 at 1 p.m. at home against Biola University.

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