Baseball edges out opener

    The Tritons swept Vanguard University 14-13 and 12-11 in their doubleheader home opener on Feb. 1 at Triton Baseball Stadium.

    Jake Mumm
    Guardian

    In the first game, in the bottom half of the second inning, UCSD put together an offensive battle, scoring seven runs on a string of five singles, capped off by a grand slam by Triton first baseman and 2002 First Team All-CCAA pick Jeff Riddle. The Tritons continued their offensive assault in the third, scoring three runs on three hits.

    UCSD head coach Dan O’Brien is trying new infield arrangements with his ball club. Riddle, last year’s designated hitter and occasional catcher, will now be playing first base as well as catching.

    “”It’s a different way to get more bats in the lineup,”” O’Brien said. “”Jeff is a great athlete, so he can play first and catcher.””

    UCSD hurler Alex Cremidan (1-0), who was a 2002 Second Team All-CCAA selection, threw five complete innings and left the game with his team ahead 11-4.

    Though the game seemed out of reach for the Lions, Vanguard mounted a big comeback in the top of the eighth inning when it scored six runs on four hits and a Triton error.

    The Lions tacked on two more runs in the top of the ninth inning against UCSD pitcher Tommy Sereno. With bases loaded, Triton pitcher Raf Bergstrom entered and proceeded to strike out the last Vanguard batter. Bergstrom got the save and the Tritons won the game 14-13.

    Offensive leaders for UCSD included left fielder John Bologna, who went 3-for-4; Riddle, who went 2-for-4 with a grand slam; right fielder David Hawk, who went 3-for-5 with a home run; shortstop Keith Hernandez, who went 2-for-5; and second baseman Nigel Miller, who went 2-for-5 with a triple.

    Vanguard junior pitcher Marcus Harris took the loss for the Lions, though he only pitched 1.1 innings. Other pitchers seeing action in the game for Vanguard include Matt Franco, Bishop Griggs, Matt Caston and Jason Searle.

    Second baseman Ryan Cruz and left fielder Joe Carnahan both went 3-for-5 for the Lions.

    Game two of the non-conference doubleheader went much the same as the first. Scheduled for seven innings, this match between the Tritons and the Lions went down to the wire.

    After allowing the Lions to score one run in the top of the first inning, the Tritons came back with vengeance in the bottom of the second and third when they scored three runs in each. Hernandez doubled in the second inning, and Miller tripled again in the second inning. Riddle and Bologna both doubled in the bottom of the third.

    UCSD pitcher James Sanders, also a 2002 Second Team All-CCAA selection and the first Triton to ever be selected to the American Baseball Coaches Association Division II Second Team All-West Region, went 5.1 innings and left the game after a three-run home run by Vanguard’s Cruz, who had another home run in the top of the fourth.

    With two outs in the bottom half of the sixth inning and the Tritons leading 11-9, UCSD’s Miller completely shattered a metal bat when he flied out to center field.

    With both teams unable to break the game open, UCSD once again called on Bergstrom to close out the game. The Lions knocked in two additional runs off the bat of shortstop Matt Tisthammer in the top of the seventh to even the score 11-11.

    After being hit by a pitch in the bottom of the seventh, the Tritons’ Bologna stole second and advanced to third on a grounder to the right side. Vanguard proceeded to intentionally walk Merrifield and Riddle, while Hawk reached on a fielder’s choice. With the bases loaded and one out, senior catcher Matt Kennison singled through the left side to clinch the victory for UCSD.

    After the games, O’Brien spoke about the competition and the games.

    “”Vanguard is a good ball club and they are ranked in the top 25 in the [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics], and they swung the bat well,”” O’Brien said. “”We didn’t do a very good job out of the bullpen. But we found a way to win, so that’s the most important thing. We got two good starts out of Cremidan and Sanders, and we are gonna get better outings from our young guys; there are just some early season jitters. But our bullpen needs to improve.””

    Jason Brunett (0-1) logged the loss for the Lions while Bergstrom (1-0) earned the victory for the Tritons.

    Riddle and Hawk both went 2-for-4 with a double in the game. Hernandez went 2-for-3 with a double and a stolen base.

    “”We swung the bat better than we have in a long time. We ran the bases really well and had a great running game. We played good defense, so it was a good day,”” O’Brien said.

    For Vanguard, Cruz went 2-for-4 with two home runs, Carnahan went 3-for-3 with a double, and first baseman Scott Martin went 3-for-4.

    UCSD will face Point Loma Nazarene on Feb. 4.

    “”Point Loma will be a tough club to face. They are always tough at their yard and they are getting better every year just like we are. We don’t like to think of it as a rivalry, but I think they do,”” O’Brien said.

    The Tritons know what is to come and realize that they must perform well every game.

    “”If you don’t play good baseball every inning, you’re gonna be in trouble. We need to get better at protecting our leads. And if we’re down by 10, our mentality is that were gonna win and keep after it,”” O’Brien said.

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