Baseball sits atop conference

    After winning their last three games against Cal Poly Pomona last weekend, the Tritons faced Azusa Pacific University in a non-conference game Feb. 19 and then CSU San Bernardino in a four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association series from Feb. 20 to Feb. 22.

    Sarah Averbach
    Guardian

    UCSD routed Azusa Pacific 19-6. The Tritons scored runs in all but two innings against the Cougars and jumped out to a 12-2 lead after four innings. UCSD dominated the game offensively and scored five additional runs in the eighth inning, capped off by a two-run home run by first baseman Jeff Riddle.

    Riddle went 4-for-6 in the game with his second home run of the year, while center fielder Matt Smith went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and five runs scored. UCSD right fielder Brett Burton also hit his second home run of the season.

    Triton freshman pitcher Byron Grubman made the first start of his career and went three innings. Sophomore pitcher Logan Boutilier threw three innings of relief, earning him his first-ever collegiate victory.

    Defending CCAA champion CSU San Bernardino then came to Triton Baseball Field for single games on Feb. 20 and Feb. 21. Both teams traveled back to San Bernardino, Calif., to complete the series in a doubleheader on Feb. 22. The Tritons swept the Coyotes 5-4, 8-0, 6-2 and 5-3.

    On Feb. 20, UCSD was down 4-2 after eight and a half innings, but the Tritons battled back and scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the No. 15-ranked Coyotes 5-4.

    In the ninth, second baseman Nigel Miller doubled, left fielder Damian Fante singled, and designated hitter John Bologna reached on a fielding error. Smith drew a walk, which drove in Miller. Burton was hit by a pitch and Fante scored. Riddle singled to center field, scoring Bologna and securing the Triton win.

    Triton pitcher James Sanders (1-1) recorded the victory for UCSD.

    On Feb. 21, junior pitcher Rafael Bergstrom (2-0) took the hill for UCSD. Bergstrom threw the first complete game of his career — an eight-hit shutout against the Coyotes. Bergstrom allowed just one walk and struck out four San Bernardino batters. He is the first Triton pitcher to throw a shutout since the 2000 season.

    “”I feel great,”” Bergstrom said. “”Everything is coming together right now, and everyone is doing his part. I couldn’t have [thrown a shutout] without my defense; they were making diving plays all over the place.””

    Triton head coach Dan O’Brien was impressed with Bergstrom’s performance on the mound.

    “”It was a very courageous effort,”” O’Brien said. “”Raf has been working hard for three years from the day he got here. He needed to grow and get better, and it all came together today. Today is the beginning of a very successful few years for him. [Raf’s performance] is everything you want out of your program. To bring somebody in and have him have the work ethic and teach him everything you possibly can and watch it all come together his junior year is the fun part of coaching. He threw a gem.””

    The Triton defense was flawless, since it committed no errors and allowed no runs in the nine-inning affair.

    Offensively, UCSD scored eight runs, with help from Riddle, who went 2-for-3 and smacked his third home run of the year; shortstop Keith Hernandez, who went 2-for-4 with a double; and Miller, who went 3-for-4 with a double.

    “”We’re feeling good right now,”” Miller said. “”We are confident and we are going to go after every pitch. We have to play one pitch at a time because that is when you win games; when you don’t focus on what is going to happen later in the game, you just focus on the moment.””

    In the first game of the doubleheader on Feb. 22, UCSD pitcher Grubman picked up the win and gave up just one run in eight innings against the Coyotes. Fante hit his first collegiate career home run in the 6-2 victory.

    The second game in the doubleheader, scheduled for seven innings, was a battle between the two powerful CCAA teams. The game went 11 innings, though UCSD came out on top once again, beating CSU San Bernardino 5-3.

    Triton pitcher Alex Cremidan went six innings before exiting the game ahead by 3-2 off of a home run by Bologna. UCSD closer Sanders came into the game in the top of the seventh, only to give up a home run to a Coyote to push the game into extra innings.

    In the top of the 11th, with Matt Merrifield and Bologna aboard and two outs, last week’s CCAA Player of the Week, Matt Smith, knocked a double, scoring both Triton runners.

    UCSD pitcher Tyler Smith pitched the four extra innings in the game and struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth inning to earn the win for the Tritons.

    UCSD has now won eight consecutive games and owns sole possession of first place in the CCAA at 7-1.

    “”People will talk about us [being on a winning streak], but every single inning we are just going to outwork the other team,”” O’Brien said. “”We really focus on how we play rather than who we play, and that’s a big part of our style. We aren’t intimidated by anyone.””

    UCSD travels across town to face Division I USD on Feb. 25 at 2 p.m., and then continues conference action with a doubleheader on Feb. 27 against CSU Los Angeles.

    “”We are playing incredible baseball right now,”” Bergstrom said. “”We can’t be stopped.””

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