Granted, their second place finish fell short of last season’s national championship, but by how much?
The Tritons traded last season’s regular season title for a CCAA tournament championship. By the numbers: The Tritons conceded 10 more losses this season than the last, going 45–23 in 2012 and 45–13 in 2011, tieing for the most single-season wins in program history.
But what made the difference between first and second place?
Well, firstly, I’ll concede that in a game so much dependent on chance, there’s arguably no difference. But for the sake of argument, let’s review the discrepancies.
UCSD’s three most consistent batters in 2011 were absent this season. Two of them — third baseman Sarah Woofter and first baseman Jennifer De Fazio — graduated in 2011, while left-hander Esther Strom wasn’t in the dugout in 2012. The hole in the lineup has largely been filled by freshmen Monique Portugal and Maria Sykes, who both played in over 50 games this season. Further, sophomore Caitlin Brown’s transformation from reliable base hitter to power player along with senior All-American Kris Lesovsky’s continued threat in the box, has made 2012’s squad one of the best in the country.
But still, there’s a discrepancy between last year’s offensive numbers and this season’s.
In 2011, UCSD recorded 279 runs in their 58 games (4.81 runs per game), while this season the Tritons mustered only 262 in 68 games (3.85 runs per game). Their on-base percentage is down from .374 to .361, while their slugging and fielding percentages are largely the same.
I’m no statistician and I only half-understood “Moneyball” — although I wish I was Jonah Hill’s character so that I could pal around with Brad Pitt and graduate from Harvard with honors — so I wouldn’t dare point to one thing that definitely made the difference between this year and last. But if I had a gun pointed to my head, I would have to say pitching.
Graduating senior Camille Gaito — two-time All-American, two-time All-West Region selection, two-time All-CCAA — will leave UCSD with her name fixed in the record books for years to come.
But where she was unhittable last year, this year she was, just, barely, noticeably, not as good.
In 2011, Gaito’s ERA was an unbelievable 0.75, making her unmistakably the best in Division II. This season, she allowed just a smidge over one run a game.
As I would like to reiterate, it’s hardly a significant change, but against this season’s Division II champion Valdosta State — averaging 6.57 runs a game, boasting a .562 slugging percentage and 62 season home runs — just the slightest difference could be the decider.
Gaito took the mound for the Tritons nearly all of the postseason, which included back-to-back 11 inning games followed by a nine-inning win that led into the Tritons’ last two matches of the tournament.
Moral of the story: maybe you can’t win two back-to-back titles with just one arm.