Baseball takes over first place

    The UCSD baseball team traveled north to face California Collegiate Athletic Association leader Sonoma State last weekend. The Tritons took three out of four games from the Seawolves, winning the first three games of the series 9-6, 7-1 and 5-2, respectively. UCSD lost the final game of the series 2-1.

    Triton freshman pitcher Jose Navarro (3-4) took the mound for UCSD in the series opener, going 8.2 innings with six strikeouts and one walk. Sophomore pitcher Tyler Smith closed out the ninth inning of the game.

    “”[Navarro] set the tone for us with a great outing in the first game,”” UCSD head coach Dan O’Brien said.

    UCSD scored early in the game, but it wasn’t until the seventh inning that the Tritons exploded and tacked on four runs in the inning to take control of the game. Hits from designated hitter Damian Fante and third baseman Matt Merrifield, combined with walks drawn by center fielder Matt Smith and catcher/first baseman Jeff Riddle, enabled the Tritons to pull ahead and secure the game-one victory.

    Fante went 3-for-5 with two doubles, Merrifield went 2-for-5, and Riddle finished 2-for-4 in the game with a double. Right fielder Brett Burton and shortstop Keith Hernandez also had doubles in game one.

    On March 29, in the first game of a double header, the second game of the series, the Tritons put up five runs in the first two innings of the game.

    In the second inning, UCSD center fielder David Hawk and second baseman Nigel Miller singled, and then Burton doubled again to drive in two runs. The Tritons scored two additional runs in the top of the eighth inning to earn the victory.

    UCSD put pressure on Sonoma State as the Tritons stole 10 bases in the game. Designated hitter John Bologna, Merrifield and Hawk each stole one base apiece while Burton and Hernandez each stole two. Miller led the team with three steals in the game.

    Triton junior pitcher Raf Bergstrom threw his second complete game of the year, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out four and improving to a perfect 4-0 on the season.

    In game three, freshman hurler Byron Grubman threw a complete seven-inning game and earned his fifth victory of the season, boosting his record to a perfect 6-0. Grubman allowed just two runs on eight hits, while striking out four Seawolf batters.

    UCSD scored a single run in the top of the second inning, but Sonoma countered, adding one run in the bottom half of the inning and then going ahead by one run after three. The Tritons took control again in the fifth inning when they put up three runs on four hits.

    Burton went 2-for-3 in the game with three stolen bases. Hernandez and Miller also contributed two hits apiece in the nightcap.

    UCSD dropped the fourth game of the series to Sonoma 2-1.

    Triton freshman pitcher Justin Suarez got his first collegiate start in game four and gave up just two hits in six innings pitched.

    O’Brien was extremely pleased with the performances of his young pitchers.

    “”It is great when you are successful and three out of your four starters are freshman,”” he said. “”Having young pitchers who throw well is important for this club right now and also for the future of the program.””

    Tyler Smith (1-2) pitched 2.1 innings, picking up the loss for UCSD.

    UCSD scored its first and only run of the game in the top of the fifth.

    Without a run through eight and a half innings, Sonoma State was able to score two runs in the final inning of the game to clinch their first victory of the series.

    In the four-game series, the Tritons scored 22 total runs and stole 20 bases.

    “”We were successful because we excelled in the four aspects of the game that we emphasize: We pitched, played defense, swung the bat and ran the bases very well,”” O’Brien said. “”We want to be better than the other team in those four areas and if we are, we are successful.””

    With the three victories against Sonoma, UCSD improves to 16-8 in the CCAA and 22-14 overall, due to a win over Concordia 8-1 on March 26 and a loss to Vanguard 7-6 on April 1.

    The conference victories propel the Tritons into first place in the CCAA. The 24th-ranked Tritons are now a game ahead of the Seawolves in the league.

    “”The wins were very important,”” O’Brien said. “”But what was more important though was that our guys went up and played very well. They didn’t focus on who they were playing. They just played solid baseball.””

    UCSD squares off against San Francisco State at Triton Baseball Field in a four-game series beginning at 2:30 pm on April 4 and concluding on April 6.

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