Tritons Take Seven of Eight Games in Back-to-Back Series Victories

John Hanacek/Guardian

BASEBALL — Eager to return to their winning ways after a 19-game win streak was snapped by Cal State San Bernardino on April 3, the No. 3 Tritons went into a four-game series against Cal State Stanislaus set on restoring their elite status in the league.

The Tritons came through in a big way with a four game road sweep of the Warriors, notching important wins of 7-0, 5-3, 10-2 and 18-5 over the seventh-place team in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

“We knew they would be a tough team to play, especially on a long road trip,” junior third baseman Evan Kehoe said. “They have good numbers as a team and play a similar style of baseball to us, but we just outplayed them all weekend. We played cleaner baseball than them, forced them to make mistakes and kept the pressure on them.”

The Tritons improved to 34-5 overall and 24-4 against teams in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

In Game One of the series, which took place on April 9 in Turlock, Calif., the Tritons rode an impressive performance by junior starting pitcher Tim Shibuya, who threw a complete game shutout allowing 10 hits with four strikeouts. The senior pitcher helped open the four-game series on a good note with a 7-0 win.

The Tritons and the Warriors continued the series with a doubleheader on April 10, highlighted by a nailbiting end in the first game. Trailing 3-2 in the top of the ninth and down to their final outs, UCSD was left with only a glimmer of hope, until senior first-baseman Brandon Gregorich stepped up to the plate coolly and hit a home run to tie the game at 3-3. Junior third baseman Evan Kehoe followed the game-tying homer with one of his own, giving UCSD a 4-3 lead.

An unearned run put the Tritons up 5-3, and senior closer Daniel Simmons sealed the deal by striking out the side in the ninth.

“[Gregorich’s] game-tying home run was awesome, and it really fired up our team and gave us the momentum,” Kehoe said. “When I stepped up, I was just trying to hit the ball hard somewhere, get on base and put some more pressure on the defense and the pitcher. I just turned on a pitch and happened to hit it out. It was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever been a part of.”

Senior right-hander Matt Rossman started the opening game of the double header, and provided a solid effort throughout six innings: He allowed only two earned runs.

The Warriors, demoralized after losing Game One of the doubleheader, handed the Tritons the momentum they needed to take the last two games of the series. Junior righty Guido Knudson led UCSD to a 10-2 win by allowing just two runs over seven innings, striking out eight and walking none in the process.

On the offensive side, junior designated hitter Blake Tagmeyer and senior catcher Kellen Lee both hit home runs, while Gregorich had a three-hit day and senior shortstop Vance Albitz tacked on a pair of hits and runs.

On Sunday, the Tritons set their sights on a sweep, exploding offensively for 20 hits and 18 runs in an 18-5 win. Leading the onslaught was CCAA Player of the Week, Kehoe, who was four-for-five with three runs and three runs batted in, including two doubles. Junior catcher Michael Benton was right behind him going two-for-two with a pair of doubles, three runs and three RBIs.

But it was junior infielder Grant Bauer’s three-run shot that broke the camel’s back — he ended up going four-for-four with five RBIs and three runs. Six Tritons turned in multiple-hit games, and five had multiple-RBIs.

A major key to the Tritons’ successful offense this season has been the team’s constant ability to hit the ball into to the opposite field. The coaching staff has preached this philosophy, and the players have worked to improve their swings in batting practice off the tee and in the cage — specifically for the outside pitch.

“I think the most important factor to our success at the plate is the relentless attitude that we stress as an offense,” Lee said. “It is 100 percent a mentality of beating the pitcher. Every single one of our players buys into this philosophy of competing and never letting up. If you go into every at-bat with the confidence in yourself, more times than not, you will put together a quality at-bat.”

UCSD returned to Triton Ballpark on April 15 with a four-game home series against Cal State Los Angeles. After dropping the first game 2-1, the Tritons won the next three with scores of 10-4, 13-6 and 5-4. UCSD improved to 37-6 overall with the win, and 27-5 in conference play.

The Tritons return to action at home on April 22, when they open a four-game series against Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Readers can contact Cameron Tillisch at [email protected].