GCU Falls Victim to Offensive Takeover

Karen Ling/Guardian File

BASEBALL — Living up to their No. 3 national ranking, the UCSD baseball team swept a four-game series against Grand Canyon University from Friday, Feb. 12 to Saturday, Feb. 13.

The Tritons dominated GCU both days, outscoring them 52-4 in the series. Three of the four games featured 15 or more runs from UCSD, yielding final scores of 6-0, 16-2, 15-2 and 15-0 and improving their overall record to 9-1. GCU fell to 3-5 overall.

The Tritons began the series with a Friday doubleheader, junior righty Tim Shibuya taking the mound in game one and shutting it down. Shibuya hurled seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits on eight strikeouts. The Wyoming native improved his earned run average to 2.65, and is now 3-0 on the season.

Three GCU errors were all UCSD needed on offense, as the Tritons scored five unearned runs in the fifth inning.

“During the GCU sweep, the entire team was clicking in all areas,” junior outfielder Kyle Saul said. “Our pitchers only gave up four runs, and consistently pounded the ball down in the zone. Our offense put up 52 runs, and was relentless in our approach of driving the ball to right center field. As an offense unit, we wore down their pitching staff.”

Junior designated hitter Aaron Bauman went 2-4 with two runs batted in in the first game, while junior third baseman Evan Kehoe collected three hits. Senior first baseman Brandon Gregorich — who was named the Wilson/California Collegiate Athletic Association player of the week after going 11-for-16 with 16 RBIs and two home runs against GCU — added two hits of his own.

The Tritons scored three unearned runs in the fifth inning as Bauman and Gregorich hit back-to-back doubles with two outs. Kehoe then stepped up to the plate and continued the two-out rally, whacking a single to put UCSD up 5-0. The Tritons cruised to a 6-0 win under the arm of Shibuya.

“We played very well throughout the whole series,” Kehoe said. “Our hitters did a great job with their plan at the plate — driving the ball the other way — and this helped us put up a lot of runs. The pitchers also did an excellent job pounding the zone and challenging their hitters. It was an all-around great series for the team.”

In the second game of the doubleheader, UCSD exploded with 15 hits and 16 runs, putting up three four-run innings. Junior right-hander Daniel Simmons improved his record to 2-0, going 4.1 innings and allowing four walks, five strikeouts and only one earned run for two hits. The UCSD bullpen shut out GCU in the last half of the game.

UCSD was trailing 1-2 in the third inning before Bauman blasted a two-run shot to put the Tritons up 3-2. Saul, senior shortstop Vance Abitz and senior outfielder Robert Sedin each made two hits apiece.

The Tritons scored four runs in the third inning, four in the fourth, four in the fifth and three in the sixth to pull away with a 16-2 victory.

After winning the first two games of the series, the Tritons aimed for the same results in Saturday’s doubleheader. Senior right-hander Matt Rossman started the first game pitching seven shutout innings, allowing four hits, no walks and striking out four batters. The win was Rossman’s first of the season.

On Saturday, Gregorich was one of UCSD’s many offensive contributors, going 5-6 with seven RBIs and five runs scored. Saul hit for the cycle in both games combined.

Erik Jepsen/Guardian

The first game featured 18 hits, with six players collecting multiple hits: Saul, Gregorich, Kehoe, junior catcher Michael Benton and sophomore outfielder Danny Susdorf all contributed as multiple-hitters. Leading 6-1 through six innings, the Tritons broke the game open with an eight-run seventh inning. UCSD cruised to a 15-2 win and set the tone for the day.

In the second game of the doubleheader — and the final in the series — Saul opened up the route by hitting a home run in the first inning. Gregorich singled and stole second base as Kehoe batted him in, putting UCSD up 2-0 in the first inning.

Senior right-hander Kirby St. John tossed four shutout innings, allowing just two hits on four strikeouts.

In the second inning, Albitz smacked a two-RBI single to centerfield, giving the Tritons a 4-0 lead. UCSD then loaded the bases, and Gregorich promptly cleared them for a three-RBI double to centerfield, giving the Tritons a 7-0 lead. UCSD never looked back, and ended the game with a 16-0 win.

“We are preparing this week like we do every week of the season,” Saul said. “Our focus does not change depending on who we play, and I believe this is one of our strengths as a team.”

The Tritons open up conference play this week against No. 23 Chico State. According to Kehoe, he will maintain a high performance standard at practice this week.

“As a team, our practices are always intense and very productive, and we pride ourselves on showing up every day and getting better,” Kehoe said. “Obviously, we have been doing a lot of things right, but as a team, we pride ourselves on getting better every day. We are preparing for Chico just like we prepare for any other series. We know it’s our first conference series, so it’s obviously a meaningful series — but we aren’t changing the way we go about anything. We just need to keep playing our game.”

UCSD hopes to play off their momentum as they head into conference. They will first host the Wildcats, who are 4-0 overall and 4-0 in CCAA action, and who swept Cal State East Bay last week to begin their conference play. The four-game set begins on Friday, with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. at Triton Baseball Field.

Readers can contact Cameron Tillisch at [email protected].

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