Tritons Spear Cougars in Doubleheader

    With its final regular season series completed, the members of the UCSD softball team turn their focus to the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship Tournament.

    Sanh Luong/Guardian
    Freshman shortstop Amanda Eliades and the Tritons posted a 7-3 victory in game one and won 5-2 in game two against Cal State San Marcos on April 28 for an overall record of 34-23.

    The Tritons roll into the playoffs with a conference record of 11-12, which includes a sweep of Cal State San Marcos on April 28.

    “”The playoffs are definitely more exciting and a little bit more pressure-filled,”” head coach Patti Gerckens said. “”We’re just taking it one game at a time, one out at a time, one pitch at a time. We know we can beat anyone we play and we just have to keep that confidence.””

    UCSD punished the Cougars 7-3 in game one and rallied for a 5-2 victory in the second. The wins pad the Tritons’ overall record to 34-23.

    But with the final tune up before the double-elimination championship, Gerckens knows it’s a different game come playoff time.

    “”When you play in a tournament you tend to play more of your ‘A’ game,”” Gerkens said. “”At this point in the season it’s just about focusing on the fundamentals. We’ll work on our fielding, throwing and hitting at practice and head on to the tournament.””

    The team seemed to have the kinks worked out against Cal State San Marcos in game one, jumping out to a 7-0 lead over the first six innings behind the strong pitching of junior ace Melissa Ward.

    Ward got some help in picking up her 26th win of the season from junior reliever Nicole Fullerton, who pitched a solid one and two-thirds innings for the Tritons.

    Junior third baseman and power hitter Jenny Maze went 3-for-4 with three RBIs while senior Brittni Carino accounted for three runs for the Tritons. Sophomore outfielder Allison May blasted her third home run of the season.

    “”There’s not one star on the team,”” Gerkens said. “”We don’t do anything fancy, but somehow we find a way to win. We usually have two or three girls on the same page during a game but we’re trying to get five or six.””

    UCSD showed it could also come from behind, pulling out a 5-2 victory in game two. The Cougars pounced in the top half of the first inning, capitalizing on a throwing error by sophomore first baseman Jenni Habib.

    “”It was just a ground ball to her that she fielded and played aggressively trying to get the lead runner out at third,”” senior first baseman and captain Sara Robinson said. “”It cost us a run but we never worried. That’s the unique thing about this team – we just know we’ll come back.””

    Scoreless after two, the Tritons finally tallied a run on junior shortstop Danielle Lukk’s sacrifice fly that scored May.

    The Cougars would hold the Triton bats silent until the bottom of the sixth inning, when UCSD was finally able to do what its coach had been preaching all year – string hits together.

    Sophomore pinch hitter Megan Grace and Maze recorded RBI singles, senior second baseman Dallas Hernandez crushed an RBI double and Habib redeemed herself by laying down a beautiful squeeze bunt for the fourth RBI of the inning.

    Ward got to rest in game two when little-used freshman Christine Zankich was given the start. Zankich went three deep, allowing two Cougar runs before she was replaced by sophomore right-handed pitcher Kelsey Ferguson, who went three more, allowing only one hit and recording the win.

    Fellow sophomore Lauren Chastain retired the last three Cougar batters in the top of the seventh inning to get the save.

    “”Melissa’s arm will be absolutely fresh come the weekend,”” Gerkens said. “”She’ll throw a bit in practice, her arms feel great and her confidence is up. The other pitchers need to be ready if called upon and also carry a confident attitude.””

    After the team’s absence from the playoffs last year, Gerckens is excited to be back.

    “”Seeing the athletes’ excitement is what it’s all about for me,”” Gerckens said. “”We were also predicted to finish sixth in the league and it’s nice to show people that they were wrong.””

    For many of the girls, this will be their first playoff experience since taking the field for the Tritons. While admittedly under more pressure because of the format, their focus seems to be in the right place.

    “”We’re just trying to remember that is what we’ve been working for all year long,”” Robinson said. “”We deserve it and earned it. We’ll get some studying in and go in hard and ready to play.””

    Play gets underway May 3 with the Tritons battling seventh-ranked Cal State Stanislaus. The Warriors took three of four games from the Tritons this year. The winner of that game will play the winner of the third-ranked Humboldt State and San Francisco State match up.

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