Hot-Hitting Seawolves Spring Off Triton Errors

John Hanacek/Guardian

SOFTBALL — Shaky defense and inconsistent hitting led to three losses in the Tritons’ four-game series against

Sonoma State University from Feb. 27 through Feb. 28. Despite a solid showing from UCSD’s pitching staff, untimely errors in the field and a string of lousy hits derailed the Tritons’ chances of taking down the No. 3 Seawolves. The losses dropped the Triton record to 8-8 overall and 6-6 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, while Sonoma improved to 11-4 overall and 6-2 in the CCAA.

Entering the series with the CCAA’s best team earned run average (ERA), UCSD faced its toughest challenge of the season against the Seawolves, who hold the conference’s highest batting average. The games were relocated to Santa Rosa Junior College, two hours away, after a steady downpour canceled Friday’s series-opening doubleheader.

Both teams tried to jump out to a quick start Saturday morning, but the Tritons never got the ball rolling. They mustered only four hits over seven innings, and wasted a three-run (two earned) effort from sophomore right-hander Camille Gaito en route to a 3-0 Seawolf victory.

Senior catcher Nicole Saari said the team was not at its best.

“We had a lot of errors in the first game,” she said. “And our hitting didn’t come through.”

The Tritons finally scored their first runs of the series in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, but were ultimately undone by an offense that collected only four hits for the second consecutive game.

UCSD used a Seawolf error and a two-out single off the bat of junior outfielder Kris Lesovsky to grab a 2-1 second-inning lead. Sonoma answered with a three-run rally in the bottom half of the fourth inning, and with the Triton offense unable to get the best of Sonoma freshman pitcher Samantha Lipperd, the Seawolves cruised to a 4-2 victory.

Riding a three-game losing streak — dating back to their loss to their to Cal State East Bay on Feb. 20 — head coach Patti Gerckens sent Gaito back on the mound to play stopper on Sunday morning in game three. The CCAA ERA leader emphatically responded to her coach’s decision in the Tritons’ 2-0 win.

Gaito picked up four strikeouts and didn’t walk a single batter, earning her a fifth complete-game shutout this season.

Sophomore outfielder Kellin Haley put UCSD on the board in the second inning with a solo shot to left field — the first of the transfer’s career as a Triton. Lesovsky came up with another two-out RBI single in the seventh inning, plating freshman infielder Dyanna Imoto to give Gaito some extra run support before she closed out the game.

Gerckens said her team’s pitching staff should be credited with keeping the games close and giving the Tritons a chance to win, but added that the team’s inability to come up with big hits is a major problem.

“Our pitching has been fantastic, so we just really need to score people when they are in scoring position,” Gerckens said.

With a series split on the line, the Tritons saw another close game slip away, stranding too many base runners in the late innings for a 4-3 loss.

The Seawolves wasted little time in the afternoon, putting up a quick run in the first inning for a 1-0 lead. UCSD was held scoreless until the fourth inning, when a leadoff double from Lesovsky and a Sonoma error allowed the Tritons to score twice and grab a 2-1 lead.

However, the Triton lead would not persevere: The Seawolves came back with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning for a 3-2 advantage.

That score held until the top of the sixth, when UCSD came up with its first clutch at-bat of the series — a game-tying pinch-hit single from freshman infielder Nicole Spangler. However, the Seawolves answered back with a go-ahead solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, which proved to be the game-winner. In its last inning at the plate, UCSD loaded the bases with two outs, but senior shortstop Mandi Eliades flew out to left field to end the game — stranding three of the Triton’s game-high seven runners.

After dropping three of four games, Gerckens said the Tritons see better offense as the key to surmounting above their .500 record. UCSD will travel north to take on San Francisco State University in a four-game series starting March 5.

“We need more consistency in our hitting, and we’re looking for someone who is going to step up and be our clutch hitter,” Gerckens said. “If we string a couple more hits together, we’ll be able to score one or two more runs, and come out with a win.”

Readers can contact Jake Blanc at [email protected].

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