UCSD baseball participated in its third-straight California Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament this past weekend at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton. The Tritons would go on to win one and lose two in the double elimination tournament, ending their season well over .500 with a 31–21 overall record.
In the tournament opener, UCSD’s late rally proved insufficient, as it lost 11–7 to Cal State Monterey Bay. However, the team would then go on to win in walk-off fashion against No. 6-seeded Chico State by 7–6 to stay in the tournament. Nonetheless, the Tritons would end up outplayed by No. 1-seeded Cal Poly Pomona 9–6 in what became their final game of the season. Second-game rival Chico State would notably go on to play in the CCAA Championship.
Game One — Cal State Monterey Bay 11, UCSD 7
The Tritons fell to the No. 3-seeded Otters Wednesday evening, in what came to be the highest combined scoring game of the tournament, as Cal State Monterey Bay’s high-powered offense, shelling out seven runs in just the first inning, proved too much for freshman starting pitcher Jonah Dipoto.
Two-run homers by senior first-baseman Kevin Davidson and sophomore catcher Hayden Duer catapulted the Otters to an early lead. In fact, it wasn’t until five hits and one walk that Dipoto managed to record his first out of the game, which was followed by three more singles, boosting Cal State Monterey Bay’s lead to 7–0 at the conclusion of the first.
The Otters got to their greatest lead, 9–0, after the third, following a two-run dinger of the game by senior outfielder Chris Blanton.
However, the Tritons finally got the offense rolling in the fourth inning after a hit by pitch and a walk, junior outfielder Brandon Shirley doubled down the left-field line. Senior first-baseman Zach Friedman added a run with a runs batted in single, but the inning ended when Shirley was called out at the plate.
UCSD then loaded the bases in the fifth inning following senior designated hitter Gradeigh Sanchez’s walk, junior third-baseman JD Hearn’s second single of the night and another walk to junior right fielder Jack Larsen. Sophomore catcher Steven Coe then hit a two-run single on a 3–2 count; a third walk and a hit by pitch brought in another run, making it a six-point game.
In the ninth inning, UCSD was only able to gain two more runs on three hits. This, along with the the loss in the tournament opener, brought the Tritons one more loss away from an elimination.
Game Two — UCSD 7, Chico State 6
Coe was 0–4 on the night. He had been called out four times on fly balls and left three runners on base so far. Things weren’t looking well, but when it mattered most, Coe delivered. In what would’ve been UCSD’s final game of the season, the Tritons managed to garner a three-run ninth inning, highlighted by Coe’s walk-off single, to stay in the CCAA Tournament.
The bottom of the ninth started with the Tritons trailing 4–6, when sophomore first-baseman Justin Flatt led off with a single to left field and his second hit of the night. To counter the Wildcats senior left-handed pitcher AJ Epstein, head coach Eric Newman chose junior infielder Vince Mori to pinch hit, which was a wise move as Mori also singled to bring two runners on with no outs. Sanchez then hit a sacrifice bunt and brought both runners into scoring position. Following a pop up, Hearn, who was 4–7 in the tournament, hit a game-tying double to left center. Chico State then intentionally walked Larsen to bring up Coe and make a force out easier. The Wildcats underestimated Coe as he produced a clutch, game-winning single up the middle.
However, UCSD’s victory can’t be credited to a single athlete, as the Tritons worked together to power hit and patiently bat, allowing them to bring in the first four runs that kept them in the game.
In the first inning, after Hearn had a two-out walk, Larsen homered deep to right field on the first pitch. The Triton then loaded the bases in the fifth inning, following a couple of singles and Hearn working the count for a walk. Junior right-handed pitcher Dalton Erb then threw a wild pitch against Larsen, advancing the runners and driving in Sanchez. Deja vu struck in the eighth inning, as Larsen hit his second homer of the game and sixth of the season deep to right field.
Triton senior left-handed pitcher Eric Moersen was able to earn his first win after pitching 0.1 innings, having faced only one batter. Wildcat junior right-handed pitcher Steven Baker, however, got the loss and moved to 4–6 after giving a run on a hit and a walk in the ninth inning.
UCSD escaped with a victory and moved on to play its second elimination game Friday night against the No. 1-seeded Cal Poly Pomona.
Game Three — Cal Poly Pomona 9, UCSD 6
UCSD had previously beaten Cal Poly Pomona in four of the five times they met during the regular season. Unfortunately, in what was the most important matchup of the season, the Tritons were unable to follow tradition and, instead, their season came to an end as they were eliminated in the CCAA Tournament by the Broncos Friday night. Nonetheless, they put up an admirable fight as they came back from a 5–0 deficit, only to be defeated 9–6 in the end.
For the fourth game in a row, the Tritons allowed an opposing team to score in the first inning. Cal Poly Pomona was aggressive, to say the least, with at-bats contributing to the team’s four-run first and overall nine-point game. The first inning started with senior outfielder Jared James leading off double to left center and advancing to third, following a sacrifice hit. Triton freshman left-handed pitcher Preston Mott then proceeded to walk junior infielder Jason Padlo on four straight balls, giving senior infielder Caleb Romo a double to drive in two runs but was called out at third. This was followed by a single from freshman infielder Nic Hernandez and a home run by senior outfielder Daniel Pitts that left UCSD down by four runs.
Even though the Broncos tacked on another run in the second on an RBI single by Romo, UCSD was still able to tie the game, as it put up a fifth run during the fifth inning
With runners on first and second, sophomore second baseman Tim White singled on a 1–2 count to drive in junior shortstop Tyler Howsley while Sanchez, who had advanced to third, scored on a wild pitch from sophomore pitcher Ryan Alswoth. Coe, who was brought up following a strikeout and walk, doubled to left field to bring in White as Flatt drove the final two runs in with a two-RBI single.
The tie was quickly forgotten; however, since Cal Poly Pomona added four more runs via a two-run homer, a solo dinger and an RBI single between the fifth and sixth innings.
The Tritons counted their final out of the season in the ninth on sophomore infielder Tyler Plantier’s line out and hope glimmered in the ninth even though UCSD was down 9–5. UCSD was able to score Larsen on an error and advance runners to the corners. However, the Tritons counted their final out of the season when Plantier lined out to second base.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Tim Nelson gave up four runs in 3.2 innings to get the loss and move to 7–2. Bronco sophomore relief pitcher Peter Beattie, in turn, managed to withhold the Tritons after the five-run rally, improving to 5–1 after facing 20 batters and striking out only one.
UCSD baseball concluded the season with an overall record of 31–21 and finished its 12th appearance at the CCAA Tournament. Prior to the tournament, the Tritons had only allowed, at most, one homer per game. They will, therefore, have to look to next year to earn another over-0.500 season and to compete in the CCAA Championship.