Softball Takes Silver at Mizuno Tourney

    SOFTBALL — As the 2008 playoffs inch closer, the Tritons
    have started playing their best ball of the year with impecable timing. After
    dropping four of six games over a week-long stretch, the Tritons rebounded by traveling to Turlock,
    Calif.
    , for the Mizuno Tournament of
    Champions and posted a 5-1 record en route to winning the silver bracket
    championship. Despite being a nationally ranked team for most of the season,
    UCSD dealt with occasional inconsistencies and has never played to the full
    potential that its very talented team has to offer. Through the weekend games,
    the Tritons showed they are now firing on all cylinders and are more than
    prepared to march toward a conference championship and beyond.

    During spring break on March 25, UCSD hosted a doubleheader
    versus Point Loma
    Nazarene University

    as a warmup for the Mizuno tournament but was promptly shut out over 14 innings
    and lost both games. The Tritons did not dwell on the losses and the previous
    series split against Cal State Stanislaus, but went into Turlock
    knowing the importance of the upcoming games and did not falter under the
    pressure.

    Thanks to strong defense behind sharp starting pitching, the Tritons went 5-1 at the Mizuno Tournament of Champions in Turlock, Ca. to win the silver bracket championship on March 30. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian File)

    “Our weekend was the beginning of the second half of our
    season,” senior second baseman Danielle Lukk said. “We performed decently the
    first half, but now is the time for our performance to really take off. This
    tournament and the championship is the spark for what’s to come. We leave with
    more confidence and a new attitude.”

    The Tritons set the precedent for their phenomenal weekend
    in the opening round, winning 3-0 versus Hawaii
    Pacific University

    and 7-1 against Chaminade University of Honolulu. The second day saw the
    Tritons take a 1-0 contest from the College
    of Utah
    behind a complete game
    shutout from senior lefthander Melissa Ward before dropping the evening game
    6-1 to Grand Canyon University.
    Despite posting a 3-1 record over the first two days of the tournament, UCSD
    was placed in Sunday’s silver bracket due to tie-breaking rules.

    UCSD again showed their resilience and maintained a
    competitive attitude heading into the silver bracket even though they believed
    that they deserved a chance to compete in the first place game.

    “It is always disappointing to end up with a result that is
    less than you expected,” junior outfielder Allison May said. “We always joke a
    little about the way the brackets for this tournament work because every year
    we seem to be placed lower because of point allotment over shutouts or number
    of runs scored, regardless of win-loss record.”

    In the semifinal game, May’s fourth-inning single provided
    all the needed offense as the Tritons pulled out a 2-0 win over Western
    Oregon University
    .
    May, who hit safely in all six games over the weekend, was honored as the
    California Collegiate Athletics Association Player of the Week for her breakout
    performance. In the championship matchup, the Tritons faced off against San
    Francisco
    State
    in
    a game that might serve as UCSD’s catalyst for a strong finish to the 2008
    season.

    The Gators jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of solo home
    runs off of the southpaw Ward. UCSD was able to get one of the runs back on a
    sixth-inning RBI double from junior first baseman Jenni Habib but still trailed
    2-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh. May continued her best weekend of
    the year by leading off with a single to left center before stealing second
    base and taking third on a wild pitch. With the tying run at third, head coach
    Patti Gerckens called for Lukk to attempt a suicide squeeze. Despite a
    well-executed bunt, the Gator pitcher tried to get May out heading home but
    threw the ball away, allowing the tying run to score and putting the winning
    run on first. Junior outfielder Megan Grace was up next and grounded a hard
    chopper to first that the Gator first baseman couldn’t handle and Lukk hustled
    all the way from first to score the winning run.

    The clutch, come-from-behind victory to win the championship
    has proven to the Triton players what they knew all season long: They are their
    own toughest competition.

    “I feel like we’re back on track now,” said Ward, who threw
    four complete games, struck out 43 batters on the weekend and won CCAA Pitcher
    of the Week. “We have had our ups and downs the past few weeks but our hitting,
    defense and pitching are really working together now. I’m excited for the
    second half of our season because I know that we are only going to get better
    from here as each aspect of our game continues to improve.”

    The Tritons, currently the 10th-ranked team in the nation,
    have four more conference series before the CCAA Championship Tournament begins
    on May 1. The Tritons hope to take their recent momentum and continue their
    cohesive team play throughout their last month of the regular season.

    “The come-from-behind victory meant a lot to our team,” Lukk
    said. “We wanted this championship and we didn’t give up. We knew we could win
    throughout the entire game and we didn’t stop until we did. As we head toward
    postseason the team needs to continue with our confidence and determination to
    win.”

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