Tritons Go 4-0 at Best of the West Invitational

    SOFTBALL — The Tritons exploded out of the gates in their
    opening weekend, posting a perfect 4-0 record at the Mizuno Best of the West
    Invitational in Turlock, Calif.
    The Tritons, who prior to the tournament were picked to finish third in the
    CCAA coaches poll, used the weekend games to establish their rightful place
    among softball’s elite and to set the tone for the rest of their season. UCSD
    faced off against an extremely competitive pool of teams, but cruised to an
    undefeated finish, outscoring its opponents 32-8.

    The final day of the tournament was rained out, forcing UCSD
    to forgo the final two games, which would have included the championship.
    Although the Tritons had gone 4-0, they fell victim to tournament rules and
    were awarded second place. Seattle University,
    which had also won four games, was given the championship because it had two
    shutouts while the Tritons only posted one.

    Senior southpaw Melissa Ward earned CCAA Pitcher of the Week for her two complete game wins. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian File)

    Going into the opening tournament the Tritons knew they had
    a solid team, but made sure to keep their personal expectations reasonable.

    “I can’t say we planned on coming out of the tournament
    undefeated, but it happened and that’s great,” junior first-baseman Jenni Habib
    said. “Everyone came through in situations when we needed them to, and I think
    that’s what helped keep us on top. There was never a moment where we didn’t
    feel in control of the game. We came out strong and even when the other teams
    answered back with runs, we never lost confidence and got the runs back.”

    The Tritons started their season off in style in the opening
    games, defeating Davis and Elkins 6-2 before upsetting No. 6 Humboldt State 5-2
    in the nightcap. As one of UCSD’s main rivals, the Lumberjacks’ defeat was
    especially impressive. In the game, senior third-baseman Jenny Maze hit her
    second homerun of the day, and 27th of her career, with junior center-fielder
    Allison May and freshman right-fielder Katrin Gabriel each turning in a
    multi-hit performance. The staff ace, senior Melissa Ward, allowed only one
    earned run on six hits for the complete game victory.

    After two relatively close games on Feb. 1, the Tritons
    breezed through games on Feb. 2 against
    Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State Stanislaus. Junior pitcher Lauren
    Chastain paced UCSD with a six-hit complete game and drove in three RBIs at the
    plate. In the afternoon game, the Tritons faced host Cal State Stanislaus and
    made themselves feel at home, easily winning 9-0 against the 10th-ranked team
    in the nation. Ward threw another gem, this time striking out four en route to
    a one-hit shutout. In the top of the first, senior second-baseman Danielle Lukk
    connected for a grand slam, opening the floodgates for UCSD’s 11-hit, nine-run
    showing.

    Speaking to UCSD’s second-place finish, Ward was diplomatic
    in expressing the sentiment of the team.

    “It’s a little disappointing to finish in second place after
    going 4-0; I would have really liked to have played Seattle for the title,”
    Ward said. “I’m sure we will run into them a few times this season though, so
    we’ll have to settle the score then.”

    Head coach Patti Gerckens was proud of her team’s
    achievements, knowing that its veteran leadership will continue to produce
    quality wins throughout the season.

    “It was a good weekend all around,” Gerckens said. “We saw
    all of the hard work that the team has been putting in really pay off. The
    mentality of the team this year is that we’re going to the postseason and that
    we’re going to do well; the expectations are high.”

    Although the Tritons performed well up and down the lineup,
    two players were singled out for their play, with Maze being named the CCAA
    Player of the Week and Ward claiming CCAA Pitcher of the Week. Over the four
    games, Maze drove in six runs while clubbing two homeruns, one of which came
    against the 2007 West Region Pitcher of the Year, Humboldt
    State
    ’s Lizzy Prescott. Ward went
    the distance in both of her wins while striking out 10 and allowing just one
    run.

    The Tritons will have their home opener Feb. 8, starting a
    four-game series against CCAA foe Chico
    State
    .

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