Conference Champions

             “At the CCAA [tournament] our team played with heart,” UCSD assistant coach Jessica Millsap said in an email interview. “We had solid defense, great pitching, clutch hitting and an energy in the dugout that was undeniable.”

             The conference tournament was held in Stockton, Calif. and featured the top four finishing teams: No. 1 CSU Monterey Bay, No. 2 CSU Dominguez Hills, No. 3 Chico State and No. 4 UCSD.

    “I thought the team competed the best they have all year,” UCSD head coach Patti Gerckens said in an email interview. “There was a lot of energy throughout the entire weekend and whether we were winning or behind, the team was completely focused on the game. They really had each other’s back and picked each other up during the entire tournament.”

             The Tritons went 3–1 in the double elimination tournament, upsetting nationally ranked CSU Dominguez Hills in their tournament opener and splitting with No. 7 CSU Monterey Bay in the tournament final. The Tritons conceded a tough 9–5 loss to the Otters — the only team to sweep UCSD in program history — in the first game of the championship match up. In the second game of the double header, UCSD senior pitcher Camille Gaito led the Tritons to the tournament title.

    The CCAA title grants UCSD — the defending NCAA Division II National Champions — the automatic bid with sixth-seed in the West Region finals, where the Tritons will face No. 3 Dixie State.

             “I believe the team is ready and prepared for the Regional tournament and excited for it to begin,” Gerckens said. “Playing [Dixie State] will be different because we haven’t played them this year yet. We are going to take one game at a time and compete in every game.”

             Third-seed Dixie State clinched the automatic qualifier, winning the Pacific West Athletic Conference tournament with two blowouts against Grand Canyon University last week, April 27. The Red Storm will be making their fourth straight tournament appearance against the Tritons at the campus of CSU Monterey Bay, this week, Friday, May 4.

    GAME 1

    Last-seeded UCSD came up against No. 9 nationally ranked CSU Dominguez Hills in the first round of the tournament. Senior righthander Camille Gaito went the distance, allowing just three hits and one walk, keeping the Toros scoreless throughout. UCSD’s one run came in the top of the sixth inning.

             With senior Kris Lesovsky — leading the team in batting average and slugging percentage — on third base with one out, UCSD head coach Patti Gerckens called for the squeeze.

             Batting in the three-hole, sophomore catcher Caitlin Brown dropped a bunt to bring Lesovsky in to score.

    GAME 2

    The Tritons came from behind in the conference semifinal to take the win from third-seed Chico State.

    The Wildcats went up 2–0 in the second inning. With two outs and men on second and third, designated hitter Emily McEnaney singled through the right side for one RBI. McEnaney made her way round the bases, and was brought in to score off a single by Chico’s Kelly Keefe.

    UCSD would not respond until the bottom of the sixth inning.

    Back at the top of the order, Lesovsky, sophomore Kirsten Willmon and Brown loaded the bases. Batting cleanup, sophomore Charly Swanberg — CCAA first team selection — came up in the clutch, singling to right center to score two runs.

    From there, Gaito — pitching in her second straight game — kept the Toros scoreless in their last at-bat.

    In the bottom of the seventh inning, Brown singled with men on first and third to score the winning run.

    GAME 3

    Neither squad was in want of offense in the opening match of the title bout.

             The Tritons recorded two unearned runs off a fielding error in the first inning to go up 3–0 early. The Otters tied the score in the bottom of the third inning, hitting up freshman pitcher Michelle Escamilla for five hits before she was relieved by junior Jennifer Manuel.

             UCSD took back the lead in the fourth inning off a big double by junior Nicole Spangler, going up 4–3. The Tritons were unable to stay on top as Monterey Bay recorded three runs on three hits in the fourth inning to cement the win.

    GAME 4

    Pitching her third game in three days, Gaito allowed just one run while recording seven strikeouts in the last game of the tournament.

             The Tritons would not recover from a one run deficit until the bottom of the fifth inning, when a costly Otter error allowed UCSD to tie the score. Next up, Lesovsky singled to right field to score sophomore Emily McQuaid, giving the Tritons a 4–1 lead.


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