Baseball sweeps non-conference home opener

    The UCSD baseball team went undefeated during its opening weekend and swept its three-game series against non-conference opponent Regis University. In the doubleheader on Jan. 31, the Tritons outscored the Rangers, 5-2 and 16-6. In the series finale on Feb. 1, UCSD came from a 4-1 deficit to defeat Regis by a final score of 7-5.

    In the first game of the 2004 season, UCSD head coach Dan O’Brien introduced many new faces into the Triton starting lineup. The mix of returning players and new players proved to be the key to UCSD’s initial success.

    “”We pride ourselves on being fundamentally sound, and I think we’re off to a good start,”” O’Brien said. “”This weekend, we were consistent on the mound, at the plate, on defense and on the bases. We will be a very solid ball club if we stay consistent in those four areas, and continue to focus on the little things that win ball games.””

    Offensively, UCSD junior transfer and starting second baseman Ricky Pinocchio went 3-for-3 in the game with two doubles, a stolen base and two runs scored. Senior catcher Jeff Riddle also went 3-for-3 in the game and had two RBIs. Triton shortstop and UCSD Athlete of the Week Keith Hernandez went 3-for-3 with two doubles, two runs scored, a stolen base and an RBI.

    UCSD ace pitcher Raf Bergstrom (1-0) started on the hill for the Tritons and threw six innings of stellar baseball. Regis’ only offensive activity came from the bat of catcher Scott Richards in the top of the second inning. With a runner on first, Richards homered to left field and momentarily put the Rangers one up on the Tritons.

    UCSD soon countered with a run in the third inning and two more in the fifth. Triton transfer Ryan Leake pitched three innings of relief and earned the first save of his UCSD career.

    The Tritons came out strong in game two of the doubleheader and scored eight runs on six hits off of Regis pitcher Clay Tichota (0-1).

    The Rangers, seeking revenge, countered and scored five runs of their own in the top of the second inning off of UCSD starting sophomore pitcher Jose Navarro. Navarro went three and two-thirds innings while transfer Shlomo Lipetz (1-0) threw three and one-third innings of relief and earned the victory.

    UCSD continued its offensive attack in the bottom of the fourth inning when sophomore leftfielder Damian Fante hit a home run that drove in three runs. The Tritons scored six runs in the inning. Fante went 2-for-3 in the game with two runs scored and five RBIs.

    Pinch hitter/third baseman Keith Albrecht secured the Triton victory with a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning.

    In the game, Triton outfielder Ryan Langone went 2-for-5 with two RBIs and one stolen base. Pinocchio went 2-for-4 and Hernandez went 4-for-5 at the plate. Riddle, Pinocchio and pinch hitter Alex Gascon each had a double in the game. UCSD scored 16 runs on 17 hits in the nightcap.

    In the series closer, the Rangers scored three times in the top of the third inning to take a 4-1 lead over the Tritons. Regis scored again in the top of the fourth. Down 5-2, UCSD junior second baseman Joel Clark smacked a single up the middle to plate Langone and junior outfielder Craig King.

    The Tritons tied the game at five apiece in the fifth inning. In the bottom of the eighth, good hitting combined with sound base-running proved to be the key to UCSD’s third victory.

    Langone bunted his way on with one out, stole second and advanced to third on another single by Clark. That brought up the heart of UCSD’s order in Hernandez, Riddle and Pinocchio, who had punished the Rangers all weekend. Langone then got caught on the base path. Heads-up base running put Clark at second. With two outs, Hernandez singled up the middle. Clark scored what proved to be the game-winner when the throw to first got past the Regis first baseman. After a wild pitch advanced Hernandez to third, Riddle provided an insurance run with a single to left.

    The Tritons inched out the victory, 7-5. Clark finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Hernandez went 3-for-5 and Riddle went 2-for-4.

    UCSD starting sophomore pitcher Byron Grubman went three and one-third innings. Only three of the five runs scored against him were earned. Junior pitcher Logan Boutilier (1-0) came in to pitch five and two-thirds innings of strong relief, earning the victory for the Tritons. Boutilier’s performance, striking out four while allowing no walks and just three hits, was enough to earn him California Collegiate Athletic Association Baseball Pitcher of the Week honors.

    For the weekend series, Hernandez, Riddle and Pinocchio went a combined 23-for-34 (.676) with 10 runs scored, eight RBIs and six doubles.

    The Tritons face Concordia University in Irvine, Calif., on Feb. 4 in non-conference action. UCSD then returns to Triton Baseball Field this weekend for a three-game series with Division I Sacramento State. The teams will play a single game on Feb. 6 beginning at 2 p.m., and then will play single games on Feb. 7 and Feb. 8 at noon. The Tritons will open CCAA play against Cal State Los Angeles on Feb. 12.

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