Series Loss Keeps UCSD From Playing for CCAA Title

    SOFTBALL — In their final regular season series, the Tritons
    played four close games with the San Francisco State Gators, but ended up
    dropping three out of the four in the series. None of the games were decided by
    more than two runs, with UCSD losing the opening three games 2-1, 2-1 and 4-3
    before coming from behind to win 7-5 in the series finale. The nail-biter
    losses give the Tritons a final regular season record of 32-22 but a losing
    conference record of 15-17.

    “Playing in all those close games really puts the pressure
    on you and we’re going to have to step up more in those situations in the
    playoffs,” sophomore catcher Nicole Saari said. “It was definitely
    heartbreaking to go into extra innings in those games and come away with a
    loss. San Francisco is a scrappy,
    aggressive team and they found a way to get runs; we didn’t really string hits
    together and kind of just gave it away.”

    The weekend pushed the Tritons out of contention for the
    California Collegiate Athletic Association championship but not out of the NCAA
    tournament. The CCAA’s top four teams — Humboldt State, Cal State Stanislaus,
    Cal State San Bernardino and Cal State Monterey Bay — will now compete for the
    title and an automatic bid into the NCAA Regionals. Although the Tritons’
    sub-.500 conference record takes them out of the running for a conference
    title, their outstanding overall record almost assures them an at-large bid
    from the NCAA selection committee.

    The Tritons, who are currently ranked second in the West
    Region, are confident that their absence from the CCAA tournament won’t impact
    their ability to regain some momentum and still do well in the regionals and
    beyond.

    “We are still confident for the playoffs; we know that no
    matter what team we face we can beat them,” Saari said. “All the teams that we
    might play at regionals, we have played before and have done well against
    throughout the season. It would have been nice to go into the postseason on a
    winning streak but now we just have to make some minor tweaks and go from
    there.”

    In game one on April 25, senior lefthander Melissa Ward
    threw a two-hitter but the Tritons ultimately fell 2-1. Ward struck out 10
    Gators but gave up a two-run, fifth-inning homerun to San
    Francisco
    State
    ’s
    Kelsey Wood that proved to be the deciding run.

    UCSD was unable to get much done on offense until the final
    inning, when a two-out rally nearly forced extra innings. With two down, senior
    outfielder Randelle Bundy reached on an error and freshman shortstop Sarah Woofter
    knocked a double to centerfield, putting runners on second and third. Junior
    outfielder Megan Grace’s infield single scored Bundy from third and moved
    Woofter within 60 feet of tying the game. Junior outfielder Allison May
    grounded a hard shot right back up the middle, but San Francisco State’s
    pitcher gloved it and threw to first to end the game.

    Game two saw similar theatrics with another seventh-inning
    rally, only this time it was done by San Francisco
    State
    , and the Gators succeeded in
    forcing extra innings; UCSD would eventually lose after nine innings. The
    Tritons scored first with the help of two Gator errors and junior right-hander
    Lauren Chastain was breezing through her outing until a pair of San
    Francisco
    State

    runs in the final frame tied the score. The Tritons were held to one base
    runner over their two extra innings and, in the bottom of the ninth, a Gator
    infield single knocked in the winning run.

    The doubleheader on April 26 saw the Triton bats finally
    come alive, but an uncharacteristically sloppy UCSD defense led to the team
    splitting the final two games of the series. In the morning game, Woofter
    showed that the previous day’s anemic offense was no longer acceptable, and in
    the game’s first at-bat she clubbed her sixth leadoff bat of the year. Later in
    the inning, senior third baseman Jenny Maze doubled in May to put the Tritons
    ahead up 2-0. The RBI was the 120th in Maze’s UCSD career, making her the
    school’s all-time leader.

    Over the next six innings, UCSD’s infield would commit four
    errors leading to four unearned Gator runs and a 4-2 deficit. At the top of the
    seventh inning, the Tritons again scored a run to cut the lead to one but were
    unable to get that final clutch hit to tie the game as Woofter, representing
    the tying run, was again stranded at third.

    Facing the prospect of their second four-game sweep in the
    past three weeks, the Tritons put together a solid game and held on for a 7-5
    win in the series finale. A first-inning Maze homerun spotted UCSD an early
    lead, and although San Francisco State
    would retake the lead 4-2, a fifth inning rally capped by May’s grand slam put
    the Tritons back up for good, giving them their only win of the weekend. The
    winning pitcher was senior Nicole Fullerton, who arguably threw her best outing
    of the season with 5.2 innings of two-hit relief.

    “Picking up that last game was really important,” Saari
    said. “Getting swept is the worst feeling ever, especially when we felt like we
    were the better team.”

    The Tritons must now play the waiting game as they continue
    practicing at home while the top four CCAA teams battle it out for the
    conference title. In the week prior to the start of the NCAA West Regional, the
    selection committee will makes its seeding decisions, and UCSD can only bank on
    its hard work, both in and out of conference play, to earn them a chance to
    compete for the national championship.

    “We have the next couple of days off then we’re going to
    have four or five intense practices in a row,” Saari said. “We need to work on
    hitting and build up our confidence again; we know we can do it.”

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