Bergstrom, Riddle named CCAA players of the week

    Juniors Rafael Bergstrom and Jeff Riddle earned California Collegiate Athletic Association Pitcher of the Week and CCAA Player of the Week honors, respectively, for their contributions to UCSD’s eight-game winning streak, including the four-game sweep over defending CCAA champion CSU San Bernardino last weekend.

    Courtesy of UCSD Athletics
    Jeff Riddle

    The weekly conference honor is the first for both Bergstrom and Riddle. It is the second-straight week that one or more Tritons have earned the CCAA Baseball Player of the Week distinction. UCSD center fielder Matt Smith received the title last week.

    Bergstrom, a right-handed pitcher, is currently 2-0 and has a 3.27 ERA. Last week, he threw his first ever complete collegiate game. Bergstrom shut out the Coyotes in the nine-inning affair, and led his team to an 8-0 victory in the second game of the series. He gave up just eight hits and one walk while striking out four CSUSB batters in the game.

    “”I’ve just been focusing on throwing strikes,”” Bergstrom said. “”We’ve been playing good defense and hitting well, so that takes some of the pressure off and enables me to throw my game.””

    Courtesy of UCSD Athletics
    Rafael Bergstrom

    Bergstrom is the first UCSD pitcher to throw a shutout since the 2000 season. His victory is also the first nine-inning shutout in the entire CCAA so far in the 2003 season.

    “”It has been exciting to watch [Raf] develop into an outstanding college pitcher,”” said UCSD head coach Dan O’Brien. “”He had the opportunity to start a little last year, but mainly threw relief for us during his sophomore year. This will be an exciting year for him. He deserves [the success]. He is one of our hardest workers.””

    Riddle, a first baseman and catcher, hit .455 (10-for-22) with a walk, two doubles, two home runs, four runs scored and 13 RBIs while committing just a single error in 31 defensive chances — a fielding percentage of .968 — for the week.

    “”I’ve been playing some first base this year so that we can get some flexibility in the lineup,”” Riddle said. “”We have so much potential on the bench, and by moving people around defensively, we can get some other bats and some of our younger guys in the lineup.””

    Riddle began the week going 4-for-6, with a home run and five RBIs in a 19-6 non-conference rout of Azusa Pacific. During Bergstrom’s stellar performance in game two against CSUSB, Riddle went 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBIs. In game four, scheduled for seven innings, Riddle went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run in a 5-3 win in 11 innings.

    As a 2002 First Team All-CCAA selection, Riddle had at least one hit and one RBI in each of five games played this week, striking out only once and improving his batting average for the season to .274.

    “”The most impressive thing about Jeff is that he was struggling a few weeks ago, but you wouldn’t know it by watching him play,”” O’Brien said. “”He handled the adversity well, and because he didn’t get too low or too down, things turned around for him quickly. Now that he is hitting the cover off the ball, you can’t tell that he is playing that well. He is not too hot, but rather has been very consistent in how he goes about things, and I think that’s a big reason why he has been so successful.””

    Riddle leads the team with three home runs, 23 RBIs, and is tied with Smith, shortstop Keith Hernandez and outfielder Brett Burton in doubles; each has four.

    “”Recently we’ve been getting a lot of guys on base,”” Riddle said. “”Pitchers are worrying about our base runners stealing bases, so I am getting some good pitches to hit.””

    UCSD now sits alone atop the CCAA with a conference record of 7-1. Because of their recent successes on the field, the Tritons entered the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper NCAA Division II Poll this week at No. 14.

    “”We have been able to get it done these past few games because we are swinging the bats well and putting the ball in play,”” Bergstrom said.

    Riddle agrees.

    “”We are playing well right now because everyone is doing his part,”” Riddle said. “”Every game, a new guy steps up. That’s why this is a team game; if I don’t get it done, I know that the other guys in the lineup will. We are a very solid team with phenomenal athletes.””

    UCSD faces CSU Los Angeles in a four-game series this weekend. The Tritons play a doubleheader on Feb. 27 in Los Angeles at 4 p.m. On March 1, UCSD returns to Triton Baseball Stadium to finish the series with CSULA in a doubleheader beginning at noon.

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