Women Dominate the Diamond

The Triton softball team came into last weekend’s series against Cal State East Bay from Feb. 19 to Feb. 20 with little awareness of the threat the opposition would pose. Thanks to some improved defense and solid pitching and hitting, it didn’t matter.

The Tritons tacked on three wins in their four-game series against the Pioneers, a team new to the California Collegiate Athletic Association this season, and which the Tritons haven’t played since 1992. The wins put UCSD at 5-3 in the CCAA and 7-5 overall.

“The players are getting to know their range through better communication,” head coach Patti Gerckens said. “They are getting stronger as a team progressively, which is very satisfying.”

Overcoming a lack of experience with the Pioneers’ pitching and hitting abilities, UCSD went in strong from the start and easily won the first two games in the doubleheader on Feb. 19, with no errors on the board.

“East Bay being a brand new team, it was a challenge,” Gerckens said. “But we learned as it came.”

In the first game, the Tritons charged ahead in the second inning with junior outfielder Rhiannon Ousley and junior infielder Jennifer De Fazio, sending two players home for a 2-0 lead. Later in the inning, junior outfielder Katrin Gabriel’s single to the pitcher brought in two runs by Ousley and sophomore outfielder Kellin Haley, boosting UCSD to a robust 4-0 lead.

The Tritons were consistent in putting players on base, bringing in five more runs over the course of the game for a grand total of nine. Haley and De Fazio went two for two, each batting in a run.

The game ended in the fifth inning with the Pioneers unable to make a comeback, thanks to strong Triton defense on both the infield and outfield.

Photos by John Hanacek/Guardian

UCSD defense stood strong in the second game: Senior pitcher Christine Zankich held the Pioneers back for three innings, and the rest of the team provided run support, knocking one in during the fourth inning for a 1-0 lead.

Gerckens said she had a specific strategy for pitching against the Pioneers: She asked Triton pitchers to pitch outside the strike zone, throwing more balls rather than strikes.

“We needed to make them go fishing,” Gerckens said.

Experienced sophomore pitcher Camille Gaito and Zankich adjusted well to the changes, allowing only one Pioneer run.

“It was a little rocky in the first game, but I just went out there with good confidence and made solid pitches,” Gaito said. “With the run support in these games, we came together as a team.”

Later in the sixth inning, UCSD scored again, plating two runs from just three hits. Junior outfielder Kris Lesovsky’s double to left field and senior catcher Nicole Saari’s triple down the infield line sent Lesovsky home.

Freshman infielder Nicole Spangler’s single down the infield line sent junior outfielder Lyndsay Gaylord home. Zankich shut out the last of the Pioneers for a 3-1 Triton victory.

“It was good to see both pitchers on the mound throwing great pitches,” Gerckens said.

The softball team’s experienced players had developed a workman-like attitude by the third game of the series on Feb. 20.

Fierce pitching from Gaito allowed East Bay only five hits and five players on base all game.

UCSD broke out the bats in the fourth inning. Nicole Saari’s single to right field after Kris Lesovsky’s triple to right field sent Lesovsky home. Gaylord’s double to the left center eventually brought her home from freshman infielder Dyanna Imoto’s bunted single. Senior shortstop Mandi Eliades’ and Lesovsky’s singles brought Gabriel home, giving UCSD the last run of the game for a 3-1 win.

“We did a better job of executing our plays and had better defense,” Lesovsky said.

Going into the fourth game errorless, the Tritons’ energy waned, causing them to commit errors that gave the Pioneers their first win of the four-game series.

An error from the Tritons gave East Bay its first run in the second inning, and by the sixth inning, the Pioneers held the lead 4-1.

The Tritons’ late rally in the seventh inning brought the difference down to one run, and groundouts from Eliades and Lesovsky ended the game 3-4.

“We waited too long in the fourth game,” Lesovsky said. “We just need to come off hitting early and leave less players on base.”

The team will start its eight-game road trip at Rohnert Park facing off against Sonoma State for a two-day doubleheader from Feb. 26 to Feb. 27. Sonoma State is currently 3-1 in CCAA and 7-3 overall.

“We are starting to play higher-ranked teams, and so we just need to prepare to take them on,” Gerckens said.

Readers can contact Yvonne Chow at [email protected].

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