Tritons go 3-1 over Sonoma State

    The No. 10 UCSD baseball team held off defending California Collegiate Athletic Association conference champion Sonoma State in three of four games at Triton Baseball Stadium March 26 through March 28. UCSD inched out the series opener, 9-8, then took games two and three, 9-4 and 14-0, respectively. The Seawolves, however, battled back in the closer and won game four, 11-4. The Tritons are now 24-12 overall and 15-9 in the CCAA.

    “I’m very proud of the way we competed in the first three games of the series,” UCSD head coach Dan O’Brien said. “Our goal is to outplay our opponent every weekend and, for the most part, we did that.”

    In the series opener, the Tritons jumped to a 4-0 lead in three innings. Senior leftfielder Josh Saunders smacked a lead-off homerun in the bottom of the second to initiate UCSD’s offensive production. Later in the third, senior catcher Jeff Riddle and Saunders stroked back-to-back RBI doubles with two outs. Junior third baseman Alex Gascon drove in Saunders with a single up the middle of the outfield.

    The visiting Seawolves got on the board with back-to-back home runs to start the fourth inning by junior first baseman Tom Everidge and junior right fielder Brandon Burgess. At the top of the sixth, Everidge delivered again with his second home run of the game, his ninth of the season.

    After UCSD answered with a single run in the bottom half of the sixth inning, Sonoma State rallied for four runs in the seventh. The big blow was a two-run, game-tying single through the left side of the infield by Burgess after Triton junior pitcher Shlomo Lipetz had replaced UCSD sophomore starter Byron Grubman.

    In the bottom of the seventh inning, however, the Tritons made a comeback when senior first baseman Keith Albrecht roped a single to center field that tied the game at seven runs apiece. UCSD put up two more runs that inning after a bases-loaded walk to junior designated hitter Joel Clark and a wild pitch.

    Lipetz picked up the win to improve to 2-0, while sophomore pitcher Ryan Leake retired the heart of the Seawolf lineup in order in the ninth for his second save of the season.

    Saunders continued an impressive hot streak, finishing three-for-five with his second home run of 2004, a double, three runs scored, and two RBIs. He has hit safely in 19 of his last 31 at bats for an average of .613, and has a team-leading .492 overall batting average. Riddle, Albrecht and junior second baseman Ricky Pinocchio all had a pair of hits, with Pinocchio scoring twice and Clark producing two RBI.

    “The team played well as a whole this weekend,” O’Brien said. “Our strength is in the team concept. Anyone in this lineup can beat you on any given day, and that’s what makes us solid.”

    In the doubleheader on March 27, UCSD senior hurler Raf Bergstrom went a full nine innings and earned the victory, allowing four runs on three hits. Bergstrom improved to 4-3 with the win.

    Pinocchio and Gascon each went three-for-four in the game. Pinocchio had three RBI and three runs scored, including a double and his third home run of the season.

    In game three, UCSD sophomore pitcher Jose Navarro tossed his fourth consecutive seven-inning complete game. Navarro’s effort held the Seawolves scoreless across the board as the Tritons went on to shut out Sonoma State 14-0. Navarro improved to 3-2 on the season with the victory.

    The Seawolves took the series closer by a score of 11-4. Sonoma State scored 10 times in the third and fourth innings combined to jump ahead of the Tritons early in the game. From there, they tacked on one additional run to secure the victory.

    UCSD sophomore pitcher Logan Boutilier took the loss for the Tritons, his first of the season, falling to 4-1.

    The Tritons earned the series victory by prevailing in three out of four games against Sonoma State. They improved with solid play and UCSD moved up in the polls from 14th to 10th nationally in Division II baseball.

    UCSD goes on the road this weekend, April 2 through April 4, to UC Davis to take on the Aggies in a four-game CCAA series.

    When asked about the importance of the upcoming series, O’Brien commented on the overall focus of his team.

    “We spend a lot of time talking about playing against the game, not against an opponent,” he said. “There are no big games in our mind. When we play solid baseball, we’re a tough team to beat, regardless of who we’re playing.”

    From April 2 through April 4, UCSD travels north to play a four game series against UC Davis.

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