The UC San Diego Softball team closed out their season with a three-game away series against California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. The Tritons won the first and third matches, winning 3–2 and 11–2, respectively; they were edged out by the Mustangs in the second game, losing 3–2. With the series in the books, UCSD’s record improved to 16–19 overall (12–12 Big West).
Game one was a nail-biter that was decided in extra innings. In the fourth inning, freshman shortstop Deena Pederson got on base on a single up the middle. Good baserunning, along with poor pitching and fielding by the Mustangs, allowed her to cross home plate and give the Tritons the first run of the game and a 1–0 lead.
However, pitching difficulties would put the Triton lead at risk. For the first three innings, the Triton’s starting pitcher, sophomore righty Kaia Simpson, had allowed four hits, but zero runs. She would begin to struggle at the bottom of the fourth. Simpson hit the first batter, gave up a single up the middle to the second, and allowed another single to left field to the third. With the bases loaded and UCSD holding onto just a one-run lead, the Tritons made a pitching change, taking Simpson out and putting senior lefty Robyn Wampler onto the mound. (This was a big week for Wampler, who was selected on Friday to play for Team Israel in the European Championships in Italy.) But the substitution did not save UCSD from losing their lead. Wampler was put into a tough situation, inheriting three baserunners, and she surrendered a 2-RBI double to the first batter she faced, allowing Cal Poly to pull ahead 2–1.
To her credit, Wampler was able to stem the bleeding, closing out the fourth without allowing any more runs, and not allowing a hit for the next three innings. A sixth-inning RBI single by freshman left fielder Deena Pederson drove in the tying run, bringing the score to 2–2. The game remained tied at the end of the seventh, so the game was pushed into the eighth inning. An RBI single by pitcher Gabby Williams that scored junior outfielder Kaleigh Lane, in as a pinch runner, gave UCSD a pivotal 3–2 lead; a no-run eighth inning by Wampler iced the game, giving UCSD the win.
Similar to game one, the second matchup was close, but UCSD would not come out on top this time. Cal Poly struck first, scoring a run at the bottom of the second. The Tritons responded by scoring a run of their own at the top of the third, evening out the score to 1–1. However, the Mustangs were just getting started. At the bottom of the third, Cal Poly piled on two more runs and regained the lead. UCSD would try to bridge their two-run deficit, but their bats were dormant. Through the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, the Tritons recorded just one hit. The Tritons put together a valiant comeback effort in the seventh, but it would not be enough. Senior outfielder Sherriah Harrington hit an impressive seventh inning homer, pulling UCSD up to 3–2, but that would be the only run scored in the final inning.
After two tight games, UCSD closed out the series (and their 2021 season) with a bang. In game three, the Tritons steamrolled the Mustangs. They smacked thirteen hits, earned 6 walks, and stole 5 bases on their way to an 11–2 victory. Redshirt junior first basewomen Bobbi Aguirre led the team on offense, hitting .750 with 2 singles, a double, and 2 RBI. As a team, the Tritons hit .314. The Tritons put together a strong showing on the mound as well, as UCSD pitchers allowed 5 hits and 2 runs; the only blemish on their stat sheet was when starter Gabby Williams hit a batter at the bottom of the second inning.
The end of game three of the Cal Poly series also marks the end of the softball season at UCSD. The blowout victory in their last game of the season was a happy finale to their 2021 season. As Head Coach Patti Gerckens put it, “It was a great ending to our first year in Division I.”
Photo courtesy of Scott Flanders / UC San Diego Athletics