Baseball topped by Antelopes

    A nine-run second inning put the UCSD baseball team in an early hole that proved to be insurmountable, as the Tritons fell to Grand Canyon University 13-7 on April 25 in their final nonconference game of the season.

    Greg Dale/Guardian
    UCSD’s three errors against Grand Canyon led the Antelopes to a 13-7 win on April 25.

    With the loss, UCSD drops to 26-22 overall, but maintains its seventh place California Collegiate Athletic Association standing heading into its final two series of the year.

    Although the loss did not affect their playoff contention, it does put a damper on the Tritons’ spirits going into the most important part of the season. The team will face San Francisco State University on the road and Cal State Monterey Bay at home to close out the season. Although the Gators and the Otters are the two last-place teams in the CCAA, the Tritons will need to play better than they did against the Antelopes. In their last eight games, they have gone 2-6.

    The most recent home loss to the Antelopes left the Tritons questioning whether the game’s shoddy defense, which allowed five unearned runs, will carry over to their upcoming series.

    One Triton, sophomore designated hitter Scott Clement, is confident that it will not.

    “They were just fluke errors,” Clement said. “[Freshman shortstop Josh] Tanner made two of them at short and he’s been real solid there all year long and then [senior centerfielder Damian] Fante, I think that was one of his first errors in almost the four years he’s been at UCSD. It’s no big deal. It’s a nonleague game and I think we got [the errors] out of our system for the next eight games that really count.”

    Tanner, whose two errors in the fourth inning led to two unearned runs and increased the Antelopes’ lead to 11-1, agreed with Clement that UCSD’s defense, and his specifically, will be fine in crunch time.

    “I put a lot of hard work into [defense], but I’ve just been getting some tough hops and not been finding the right hops to pick up the ball,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate, but it’s just something you’ve got to forget about and bounce back because you’re going to get a lot more of them.”

    Although many of Grand Canyon’s runs can be attributed to defensive lapses, UCSD’s pitching was also problematic, as junior southpaw starter Todd Gimenez only lasted 1 1/3 innings, giving up six earned runs on six hits and a walk.

    Gimenez blamed his troubles not on his defense, but on his failure to keep the ball down in the strike zone.

    “I have all the confidence in the world in our defense,” he said. “My big problem lately has been keeping the ball down. As long as I keep the ball down, they usually hit ground balls rather than hard line drives or fly balls … If I can keep the ball down in the zone, everything should work out for us and I’ll let our defense do the work.”

    Although some players remain confident, the Tritons know they have to improve their play to make the playoffs. As of now, they hold a CCAA record of 15-13 and need to pass at least Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State San Bernardino and Cal State Stanislaus in the standings to pick up the final berth in the tournament. The Tritons are within reach of those teams, but must play their best ball in the final eight games.

    “We have to win both series,” Gimenez said. “Not necessarily go 8-0, but take three out of four in each series, which is very possible. It’s still possible for us to go 8-0 with these teams coming up because they’re at the bottom of the standings. I think its quite possible that if we win the series, we have a shot at making this tournament. We are a very good ballclub, we just haven’t been showing it lately.”

    While Gimenez was focused on the task at hand, Clement, who went 4-for-5 with two runs and three RBIs on a home run in the loss to Grand Canyon, explained a different approach to the upcoming series and UCSD’s playoff hopes.

    “We try not to think about that,” Clement said. “We just go out and try to win every single game and count it like it’s the last game of the year. The coaches know all the playoff possibilities, but we just try not to pay attention to it.”

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