Baseball’s Bats Bully GCU in Sweep

    Sophomore pitcher Matt Rossman was one of many young Triton pitchers to turn in impressive performances against the Antelopes in the series sweep. (Andrew Ricci/Guardian)

    BASEBALL — With one more four-game series left before the
    start of conference play, the No. 14 UCSD baseball team is on a roll, sweeping
    Grand Canyon University by outscoring the Antelopes 37-13 in four games at
    Triton Baseball Field from Feb. 8 to Feb. 10.

    The Tritons began the season ranked 15th in Division II, but
    fell out of the top 25 after splitting a series against Western Oregon. But
    since that disappointment and the repercussions in the rankings, UCSD has won
    five straight games and looks poised to tackle its division rivals in the
    competitive California Collegiate Athletic Association when league play starts
    on Feb. 21.

    “Especially since we came out of the gates kind of slow with
    Western Oregon, getting a sweep against a team like Grand
    was vital,” senior designated hitter John Franco said. “We
    have a lot of young guys and to gain some sort of momentum and confidence for
    them was huge.”

    The weekend series against the Antelopes started on Feb. 8
    with an offensive battle that ended in a 15-6 UCSD win. Leading 6-5 after five innings, the Tritons saw their
    lead vanish when GCU scored an unearned run on freshman relief pitcher Tim
    Shibuya in the top of the sixth inning. But UCSD responded in a big way,
    breaking open the game by sending 13 batters to the plate in a decisive
    nine-run sixth inning.

    Sophomore shortstop Vance Albitz, who hit his first career
    grand slam against the Antelopes last season, pounded the Antelopes out of the
    leadoff spot, scoring three times on two hits, including his second career
    grand slam that sealed the win in the sixth inning.

    “That happened to be a coincidence because I’m not a home
    run hitter,” Albitz said. “The great thing about hitting up top is I have
    Cantele hitting behind me and then Imeson behind him so I’m getting a lot to
    hit right now.”

    The Triton bats exploded in four games against Grand Canyon University, scoring 37 runs in just four games from Feb. 8 to Feb. 10. In the opener, UCSD scored 15 runs, including a nine-run sixth inning. (Andrew Ricci/Guardian)

    After surrendering the tying run, though unearned, Shibuya
    came back in the top of the seventh and shut down the Antelopes. He earned the
    win with three innings worth of work, in which he allowed only one run and
    struck out two batters.

    After the offensive fireworks in the series opener, UCSD
    pitchers dominated in the doubleheader on Feb. 9. Freshman Guido Knudson struck
    out six Antelopes in six innings while allowing only five hits and one unearned
    run in a 7-1 win in the first game and then rested his arm as he watched junior
    Trevor Decker deliver five strong innings in a 6-2 win. Both starters delivered
    and had their wins nailed down by UCSD’s stellar bullpen. Sophomore Kirby St.
    John went the final three innings of the first game to pick up the save, while
    senior co-closers Keith Noe and Nick Rodieck turned in one-hit scoreless
    innings in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

    “Right now, I see my role as basically getting us to
    Rodieck,” Noe said. “My job is to come in the seventh or the eighth and get us
    to him with a lead or within a run or whatever it has to be. He’s by far the
    most consistent pitcher on our team and I think that’s why he’s there to anchor
    us at the end.”

    In the series finale on Feb. 10, the Tritons completed the
    sweep behind three-run homers from senior designated hitter Chris Franco and
    junior first-baseman Matt Cantele.

    In the 9-4 win, UCSD did not get a good start out of Derek
    Barham, who allowed six hits and two runs, both of which came in the first,
    over three innings. Down 2-0 in the bottom of the third, UCSD took the lead
    after an RBI groundout by Cantele and Franco’s three-run shot.

    After UCSD added another run in the bottom of the fifth, the
    Antelopes chipped away with another two runs in the sixth to pull within one at
    5-4. But like in the opener, UCSD responded with a big inning, scoring another
    four runs due in large part to Cantele’s blast.

    “Obviously a home run is the best thing in baseball,” Franco
    said. “It silences the crowd, it silences the other team, it’s something that’s
    really powerful. Those two blasts were pretty big because it was a pretty close
    game until mine and Cantele’s put the nail in the coffin.”

    Shibuya earned another win for his 2.1 innings of work in
    relief of Barham. Noe and Rodieck were again stellar as UCSD’s one-two punch in
    the late innings, as Noe worked the seventh and Rodiek nailed down the win with
    two innings of scoreless work.

    With the sweep, the Tritons improve to 7-2 and earn a top 25
    ranking again as they head into their final four-game nonconference series at
    home, where they will face Barry University from Feb. 15 to Feb. 17. Then, the
    CCAA schedule begins with two games against Cal State San Bernardino in San
    on Feb. 15 and 16 and a doubleheader against the
    Coyotes in San Bernardino on Feb.
    23, which will be the Tritons’ first road games of the year.

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