In a delayed start to the season, UC San Diego’s baseball team took on the San Diego State University baseball squad on Feb. 26 and 27 in UCSD’s first series of Division I-level baseball. The UCSD Tritons fell short in the first game by a score of 10–4, but were able to achieve their long-awaited first D-I win in the second match, 9–3.
In the first game for the Tritons after their extended hiatus, the team hoped to ride senior righty Cameron Leonard’s arm over SDSU. That game plan started off well, with UCSD opening up the scoring with 3 runs in the third inning, their first in Division I, behind senior outfielder Anthony Lucchetti’s three-score blast. After another home run by the Tritons in the fourth inning, their lead was extended to 4, with all the momentum on their side in what looked to be a triumphant return to the diamond.
After some stellar pitching by Leonard, he left the game after 5 innings, having allowed 4 hits and a walk, along with 1 strikeout. But Leonard left the game with two men on base, and immediately after his departure, the Tritons allowed 3 runs largely due to errors, cutting the deficit to only 1, and giving Leonard 2 earned runs on the day.
Unfortunately for the Tritons, they couldn’t control the damage, as a chaotic seventh inning resulted in 7 runs for SDSU, in part due to a bevy of errors coming from UCSD’s side. The score would hold at 10–4, giving the Tritons a sore taste in their mouth as they prepared for the next one, knowing that shoring up fielding would be a priority after a whopping 6 errors in this loss.
Coming back for game two, the Tritons once again opened the scoring with a run in the first inning off a Lucchetti sacrifice fly. UCSD again was able to extend their lead with 3 runs in the fourth inning, capped off by a ground-rule double off of senior third baseman Everett Lau’s bat. After 3 scoreless innings to start this one off, sophomore southpaw Chris Gilmartin allowed SDSU a three-run shot to again bring back the deficit to 1, and after the fourth inning the Tritons were up 4–3. In a similar situation to the night before, UCSD was prepared to play the necessary disciplined baseball to come home with a win, but it just came down to execution.
In this game, however, the Tritons extended their lead in the fifth inning again with help from Lau, who would finish the game with 2 hits and 4 RBI in a strong start to the season for the infielder. But the Tritons would also need a strong defensive showing, something they hadn’t had the day before. In relief, senior right-hander Noah Conlon struck out one while allowing 5 hits and a walk. However, the defense came through for Conlon and UCSD, as no runs were allowed in his 3 innings pitched, a welcome sign for UCSD after a troubling showing on that end in this first matchup. Along with Conlon, more late offensive contributions effectively sealed the deal for UCSD with 3 more runs coming in the eighth, putting UCSD up 9–3, a score they’d hold on to for the victory.
Other performances of note include senior pitcher Luke Mattson (1–0), who entered the game in relief and officially recorded the win after 2 solid innings in which he only allowed 2 hits. Marc Filia, a sophomore who normally had only suited up in the outfield for UCSD in his first year, played catcher for the first time today, playing a key role in the much sounder defensive performance. UCSD ended up winning the battle for errors too, recording only 1 compared to 3 for SDSU. In a day of many firsts, the Tritons will be able to look back on this one fondly, as UCSD showed all the necessary adjustments they needed between games to earn a convincing victory.
After the game, UCSD coach Eric Newman highlighted the historical aspect of this victory, saying to UCSD Athletics, “I really want to express to everyone who has ever put on the Triton uniform that we were all thinking about you.” Newman’s even keel after the first loss, choosing to focus on the many good innings of baseball the team played, seems like it worked in instilling confidence in this squad, leading to their first ever victory at the Division I level.
After a doubleheader to close the series out against SDSU on Feb. 28, the Tritons will face off in a four-game series with another cross-town rival, the University of San Diego, on Mar. 4, as UCSD looks to continue building on what looks to be a promising season.
Photo courtesy of UC San Diego Athletics