Baseball says bye to seniors

    Though the Tritons finished the 2003 season in sixth place, it was atop the California Collegiate Athletic Association for many weeks behind the phenomenal play of its seniors. These nine graduating seniors have seen the baseball program move up to Division II and have played crucial roles in the success of the team.

    The UCSD baseball team and program will miss the dedication and hard work of Matt Smith, Alex Cremidan, James Sanders, Nigel Miller, Tommy Sereno, Matt Kennison, John Bologna, Matt Merrifield and Andy Holloway, all of whom graduate this spring.

    Smith has been the starting center fielder for head coach Dan O’Brien’s ball club. This year, his batting average topped the team at .339. He also led the team in on-base percentage at .490 and had the most walks at 28. Smith accounted for 40 hits, 33 runs, seven triples and two doubles this season. The management science major hit three home runs in 2002, but says that his most memorable moment on the field was hitting his first collegiate home run in the 2001 season.

    Smith would like to continue playing baseball if the opportunity presents itself. He also notes that he will miss parts of the UCSD baseball program.

    “”I’ll miss hanging out with people who have basically become family. These guys have become brothers and just being able to see and hang out with my best friends is what I’ll miss most,”” he said.

    Due to an injury early in the season, Triton pitcher Cremidan didn’t get to pitch as much as he wanted to. In 2003, Cremidan was 2-2 with a 6.21 earned run average and made 11 appearances. He pitched 37.2 innings, allowing just nine walks while striking out 26 batters. In 2002, Cremidan posted the best record on the Triton pitching staff at 7-2, had a 3.07 ERA and struck out 71 opponents in 67.1 innings.

    Sanders posted a 3-1 record and had just a 2.15 ERA in 2002. He struck out 31 batters in 50.1 innings. Sanders started four games in 2003 for UCSD and pitched 43 innings of solid baseball with 26 strikeouts and 17 walks. Though his record surmounted to just 1-5, Sanders remained a reliable pitching source for O’Brien’s team.

    Miller got his chance to shine in 2003 when he won the starting position at second base.

    “”Last season I didn’t get much playing time, so my biggest accomplishment was taking advantage of an opportunity to earn respect from my peers as well as myself,”” Miller said.

    Indeed, Miller capitalized on his opportunity this year. He started 51 games in 2003, as opposed to just one in 2002. He hit .295 and scored 36 runs off of 51 hits, which included 10 doubles, a team-leading three triples and two home runs. Defensively, Miller had a .958 fielding percentage, committing just 11 errors in 265 chances. He also led the team in total bases with 73, and executed the short game with six sacrifice bunts. The communication major plans to travel after graduation and then get a job in marketing.

    Triton pitcher Tommy Sereno had a 1-1 record this year with a 6.39 ERA. Sereno struck out six batters in 12.2 innings pitched. In 2002, Sereno went 2-1 with a 3.77 ERA. He pitched 31 strong innings and struck out 14 batters, while earning a save.

    Catcher Kennison started 29 games for the UCSD baseball team this year. Though he was injured, Kennison managed to hit .224 and put up 11 runs on 19 hits. He smacked two doubles, a triple and his first home run in his senior season. Kennison had a .309 slugging percentage, and a .994 fielding percentage, committing just one error throughout 2003.

    Outfielder Bologna was an integral part of UCSD’s success. He started 35 games for the Tritons before an ankle injury prevented him from playing. Bologna’s .332 batting average was third on the team. He led the team in runs scored with 39, had 42 hits, five doubles and a home run. Bologna drew 16 walks and stole a team-leading 32 bases.

    Bologna notes that he will miss the camaraderie of his teammates.

    “”I’ll miss being out there with the guys, sharing great moments with each other. I will also miss competing everyday with this bunch, knowing that 30 something guys are behind you, rooting for you and watching your back,”” he said.

    Though Bologna recalls many great moments on the field, it is tradition that he remembers most.

    “”My most memorable moment here was the initiation party. That is something that I will never forget. Every new guy gets initiated by having his head shaved. Once this is done, they belong to something special — the UCSD baseball program,”” he said.

    As a utility infielder, Merrifield had a .944 fielding percentage and a .232 batting average. He started 39 games, scoring 21 runs on 38 hits. Merrifield knocked in nine doubles, a triple and a home run for the Tritons in 2003. He also had 13 walks and 25 RBIs, while maintaining a .403 slugging percentage.

    UCSD pitcher Holloway had a 7.80 ERA for the Tritons in 2003. He posted a 1-0 record on the year, starting three games and appearing in nine. Holloway pitched 15 innings for O’Brien and struck out seven batters.

    “”This entire group of guys has been incredible and it has been an absolute pleasure having had the opportunity to be around them,”” Smith said.

    Though the loss of four pitchers and five fielders will leave big gaps to fill, the future of the UCSD baseball program looks promising.

    “”I believe the program has taken some large steps in the past two years,”” Miller said. “”This year we ran into some injury problems that hindered our success, but I believe coach O’Brien will continue to improve the quality of the UCSD baseball program.””

    Smith agreed.

    “”This program is just getting started,”” Smith said. “”The quality of ballplayers and people who continue to come into and through the program are getting better and better. Everyone involved with this program has very high aspirations and expectations for success. This program will no doubt become a powerhouse in college baseball.””

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