Lau’s Walkoff Grand Slam Ends First Division I Season for UCSD Baseball

In a series against California State University, Northridge (21–19, 21–19 Big West), the last series of the season, UC San Diego’s baseball team won three of four games. In the first game of the series, the Tritons (24–28, 21–19 Big West) won by a score of 3–1, followed by a doubleheader in which UCSD won the first game 5–2, then got shut out in the nightcap 2–0. Then, in UCSD’s senior day and season finale, the Tritons sent off their seniors with a bang, with a walk-off grand slam from senior second-baseman Everett Lau in a 5–4 win.

In the first game of the series, the Tritons came out shaky despite a confidence-boosting recent win streak. Defensive mistakes despite a strong pitching game from senior pitcher Cameron Leonard gave the Tritons trouble-allowing baserunners. However, the Tritons took the lead behind an RBI single from Lau in the second inning with the first strike of the game, before CSUN tied it up in the fourth 1–1. UCSD added on another RBI single in the fifth and a solo home run from senior left-fielder Anthony Lucchetti in the seventh to take the lead to 3–1.

Leonard came through with seven solid innings of work, allowing only one scored run, even with the team committing three errors. Senior closer Michael Mitchell pitched two scoreless innings to end the game, and the Tritons were able to take the win. 

In game 1 of the doubleheader, each team came out hitting well, with one run scored apiece in the first inning. In the second, Lucchetti recorded an RBI single to give the Tritons the advantage, and scored one of his two runs in the fourth inning. UCSD took a 4–1 lead in the sixth inning, as Lau was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. A seventh-inning homer gave the Tritons a four-run advantage, with stellar pitching by senior Noah Conlon keeping the Tritons in front.

Just as Leonard had done the night before, Conlon maintained the lead by keeping CSUN to one run through seven innings. Conlon went one further, however, closing the game out himself, allowing one run in the ninth and earning his third win of the season by a score of 5–2.

In the second game of the doubleheader, the Tritons struggled with offense. Junior shortstop Michael Fuhrman recorded two hits out of six total for the Tritons, but the offense was pretty much held in check throughout the game. While the pitching staff was effective, the two runs allowed were the difference, and the Tritons took a loss going into senior night by a score of 2–0. 

Senior Day celebrated 16 different student-athletes for the UCSD baseball team, and suffice it to say, it did not disappoint. The Tritons didn’t make it look easy though. UCSD allowed four scores in the first three innings, and it looked like it would be an unceremonious ending to this historic year. Then, a quick hit and an error allowed the Tritons to cut the deficit to three and put redshirt junior outfielder Tate Soderstrom in scoring position at second base in the sixth inning. The Tritons could not convert though, and the score remained 4–1 going into the bottom of the ninth. Soderstrom hit a leadoff single to start the inning, followed by a walk for redshirt senior catcher Aaron Kim, who was replaced on the basepaths with sophomore outfielder Tyler Weiner. Then, after CSUN pitcher Blaine Traxel, who had been dominant all game, was taken out, sophomore first-baseman Jackson Kritsch was hit by a 2–2 pitch, loading the bases with no outs and bringing Everett Lau to the plate.

With the count at 1–1, Lau orchestrated an immediate classic for UCSD, knocking a walk-off grand slam down the right field line to punctuate the first season of Division-I baseball. The scene was wild, with Lau confidently jogging the bases with the entire team rabidly jumping up and down before they piled on top of him at home base. 

The 5–4 win gave the Tritons a winning record in Big West play, and they ended the year in a tie with CSUN for fourth place in the conference; UCSD finished off the season strong, going 12–3 over their last 15 games. That hot streak ended with an unforgettable game-winner Saturday night on the grand slam from the senior Lau, helping the Tritons set the foundation for what they hope will be continued success at the Division I level for years to come. 

Photo courtesy of UC San Diego Athletics