UCSD Goes Three for Five at Tourney

UCSD’s spring break was no time to relax for the softball team, as it played in five games against some of the top teams in the west in the Mizuno Tournament of Champions, March 30 to April 1.

Will Parson/Guardian
Senior outfielder Brittni Carino slides safely into third base on a triple as head coach Patti Gerckens looks on. Gerckens took Carino and the rest of the Tritons to Turlock, Calif. for the Tournament of Champions, where UCSD won three of its five games from March 30 to April 1.

The tournament includes 20 Division-II teams from the West Region and is heralded as one of the region’s largest.

“”[The tournament] is a good opportunity to see what we’re up against later on during playoffs,”” senior captain Sara Robinson said. “”It’s not your typical spring break, but it’s fun knowing that the only concern is playing softball and there isn’t any schoolwork for once.””

After a third-place finish in pool play, the Tritons earned rights to a silver bracket berth and a first-round bye. UCSD played Cal State Bakersfield, which defeated Notre Dame de Namur University in the opening round of bracket play. Fellow California Collegiate Athletic Association foe Cal State Bakersfield got the better of the Tritons, as UCSD lost a heartbreaker 1-2 on April 1.

The Tritons loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, but could only muster one run before the Roadrunners ended the game. Come tournament time, the Tritons’ record stood at 23-19 overall.

The Tritons earned two early shutout wins: 4-0 over Western Oregon University and 1-0 over Seattle University. They then cruised to an 11-2 victory over St. Martin’s University of Lacey, Wash., in their third game of the day on March 30.

Junior ace Melissa Ward pitched 17 innings of flawless work in the first two games. Junior shortstop Danielle Lukk and senior second baseman Dallas Hernandez each tallied two hits for the Tritons against Western Oregon University to lead the way.

In game two against Seattle University, Redhawks pitcher Erin Martin held the Tritons hitless through nine innings but sophomore designated hitter Jenni Habib’s bunt single in the 10th was the only hit UCSD needed. The bunt scored Lukk and the Tritons escaped with a 10-inning victory.

“”Melissa pitched a great game and she had great control,”” Hernandez said. “”As far as emotion, we were actually disapointed that it took so long to win a game we knew we’d win.””

The final game of day one was never in question, as an onslaught of run support and a mercy-rule ending gave freshman pitcher Christine Zankich her first collegiate victory against St. Martin’s University. UCSD scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth to wrap up game three early.

Junior third baseman Jenny Maze blasted a grand slam, her ninth home run of the season, to lead the way. Senior catcher Nikki Palmer and sophomore left fielder Megan Grace added two RBIs apiece.

“”We were kind of getting warmed up those first two games so it was nice to finally string some hits together,”” Robinson said. “”Hits are contagious and once one person started hitting we got on a roll.””

Day two of the tournament proved more difficult for the Tritons as they downed Chaminade University of Honolulu, 8-5, but fell to nationally ranked No. 12 University of Hawaii, Hilo by a final score of 4-6.

Maze blasted her 10th homer of the season and Palmer added her own to lead UCSD over Chaminade University.

The Tritons jumped out to a 3-1 lead against University of Hawaii, Hilo, but the Vulcans clawed back, scoring three runs in the fourth inning and two more in the fifth to come back and take over for the win. Ward suffered her sixth loss of the season, giving up only two earned runs and striking out four.

“”An unearned run is when a batter reaches base on an error and advances when they otherwise wouldn’t have,”” Robinson said. If the base runner scores, it is recorded as an unearned man.

UCSD won’t enjoy any break, as it’s back into action April 6 and 7 against third-ranked Humboldt State in a matchup of CCAA leaders. With a series win, the Tritons could move to the top of the standings.