Baseball Bounces Back

    BASEBALL — After a disappointing 1-2 start, the No. 15 UCSD
    baseball team salvaged a split in the four-game season-opening series with Western
    Oregon
    by completing a comeback victory, 3-2, over the Wolves in a
    Feb. 4 make-up game.

    When rain postponed the finale, the Tritons had just played
    three games, winning the opener on Feb. 1 by one run and losing both games in a
    doubleheader on Feb. 2 by a total of three runs. It was fitting that the finale
    was another one-run game, as the Tritons tied the game in the seventh inning
    with a two-run homerun from redshirt freshman Kyle Saul and then took the lead
    in the eighth when junior second-baseman Garrett Imeson drove in the
    game-winning run with a single.

    Freshman right-handed pitcher Tim Shibuya came out of the bullpen and held Western Oregon scoreless over 4 1/3 innings, allowing only two hits and a walk and striking out six Wolves in a 3-2 win on Feb. 4. (Karen Ling/Guardian)

    “Considering how poorly we played all weekend, we were lucky
    to get out of there with a split,” head coach Dan O’Brien said. “But at the
    same time, we found a way to win a game that we had absolutely had to win on
    Monday…against a team that has a pretty good chance to go to a Regional at
    the end of this year.”

    The Tritons looked like they were in for another loss when
    the Wolves came out swinging to lead off the game. Freshman starting pitcher
    Nick Young ran into some trouble in the early goings, allowing two runs on
    three hits in the first inning. The young pitcher managed to escape without
    much more damage, leaving the bases loaded and keeping his team within reach.

    Young lasted another 1 2/3 innings and didn’t allow any more
    runs before giving way to freshman Tim Shibuya, who was masterful in relief,
    saving the rest of the bullpen from work by turning in 4 1/3 innings of
    scoreless work in which he allowed only two hits and a walk and struck out six.

    “The two best things in life are good friends and a good
    bullpen and, well, this could be the first year in my tenure at UCSD where we
    have a chance to have a lights-out bullpen,” O’Brien said.

    Shibuya’s gutsy performance kept the Wolves’ lead at only
    two runs until the seventh inning, when Saul sent a ball deep to left field to
    tie the game.

    Despite Saul’s heroics, it took some more clutch relief
    pitching and another timely hit to give the Tritons the victory and the series
    split. After the freshman pitchers did all they could do, O’Brien went to
    veterans in the late innings, first calling on senior right-hander Keith Noe to
    stymie the Wolves in the eighth. Noe did just as his coach wanted, setting the Western
    Oregon
    hitters down in order and setting the stage for Imeson’s
    game-winning hit.

    Junior third-baseman Justin Bono led off the bottom of the
    eighth inning with a single up the middle and advanced to second on a bunt
    single by sophomore shortstop Vance Albitz. Both runners advanced on a passed
    ball and with no outs the heart of the Triton lineup headed to the plate.

    Imeson was the first Triton to get a crack at driving in the
    go-ahead run, and he came through, singling to center field to send Bono home
    for a 3-2 lead. Still with no outs and runners at first and third, the Tritons
    looked for some insurance runs but were put down and forced to head into the
    ninth clinging to a one-run lead.

    New closer, senior Nick Rodieck, came in to earn the tough
    save and had no problem, setting the Wolves down in order, including a
    strikeout to open the inning. Rodieck has now earned saves in both of UCSD’s
    victories and looks comfortable so far in his new role as one of the team’s
    closers, along with Noe.

    According to O’Brien, the Tritons will need two closers
    available to get through a four-game series, especially when the games are
    close, as they were this past week.

    “[Those] veterans in the bullpen we think are going to be
    able to finish games for us,” O’Brien said. “It’s a pretty good 1-2 punch and
    we think it’s going to be a successful combination throughout the year.”

    UCSD also took on Cal State San Marcos in a nonleague game
    on Feb. 6 and won 10-3 behind four home runs but further details were
    unavailable as of press time.

    Next, the Tritons will take on Grand
    Canyon
    University

    Feb. 8 to 10 and Barry University
    Feb. 15 to 17 with both four-game series serving as tuneups before league play
    begins on Feb. 21, when they host Cal State San Bernardino in their CCAA
    opener.

    Unlike in the previous two games, when UCSD lost by a total of three runs, the Tritons got clutch hitting throughout the lineup to pull off the 3-2 victory on Feb. 4. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian File)

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