Tritons walk-off Tigers, complete 3-run comeback to extend win streak

Tritons walk-off Tigers, complete 3-run comeback to extend win streak
Photo by Sarah He/ UCSD Guardian

Bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded. Two outs. Two strikes. The Tritons are down 3–1. Senior catcher Emiliano Gonzalez steps to the plate. Here comes the pitch … 


UC San Diego (9–3, 0–0 Big West) hosted the University of Pacific Tigers (2–10, 0–0 WCC) at Triton Ballpark on Friday night for the first of a three-game series. The Tritons entered Friday night on a five-game winning streak, including a four-game sweep of the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, who couldn’t hit a sequoia with a 20-foot hatchet. The Tigers entered La Jolla on a seven-game losing streak, but you wouldn’t know it from how the first 8 innings of Friday’s game went. 


Sporting their vibrant yellow jerseys, blue hats, and white pants, the Tritons showcased all three UCSD colors on Friday night. Unfortunately, their vibrant attire did not correlate to vibrant play — until it did.


Junior pitcher Ryan Forcucci, after a rocky start, settled in for a commendable six-inning outing. However, the Tigers capitalized on a few defensive mishaps. Forcucci struggled to find the zone in the first and second innings but posted two scoreless frames nevertheless. He ran into some trouble in the third, though.


Forcucci gave up a leadoff double on the first pitch of the inning, which was the first hit in the game for either team. After a strikeout and a flyout, Forcucci struck out what would have been the third and final out of the inning. On the strikeout pitch, however, the dropped third strike skidded past the catcher and all the way to the backstop. The hitter reached first base, and the runner on second base advanced to third. Unfortunately, the Tigers would capitalize. 


The next batter scorched a triple off the top of the left field wall, scoring both runners to put the Tigers up 2–0. The Tigers followed that by hitting a ball to third base for what looked to be the inning-ending groundout, but junior third baseman Matt Halbach committed a throwing error. Peterson scored from third and the Tigers extended their lead to 3–0. Fortunately for the Tritons, the Tigers would not plate another run for the rest of the night. Forcucci finished with 10 punchouts, one walk, and 3 hits. Overall, aside from one odd inning, Forcucci was lights out.


Despite plating 33 runs in the final 2 games against Stephen F. Austin last weekend, the Tritons’ offense was dormant to begin Friday night’s game. The five-day break must have cooled the bats, because the Tritons did not tally a hit until the fourth inning. 


In the fourth, Halbach reached on an error, and senior catcher Bradlee Preap barrelled the Tritons’ first hit of the game. With two outs, redshirt junior first baseman Doyle Kane grounded out to end the inning, which foreshadowed a long night of Triton base runners stranded in scoring position. 


In the fifth, senior utility player Benjamin Rosengard launched a deep flyout to the left field warning track, which left the bases loaded to end the inning. The Tritons left 11 runners on base Friday night, but they cashed in when it mattered the most.


In the sixth inning, Halbach led off with a double down the third base line, and Preap was hit by a pitch. Kane followed with a line drive single to left field to load the bases, which knocked out the Tigers’ starting pitcher. Gonzalez — the soon-to-be hero — grounded out to shortstop, scoring Halbach from third to cut the lead to 3–1 with just one out. The Tritons would strand runners on second and third base to end the inning.


In the seventh, Preap stepped into the box with the bases loaded and one out. A$AP Ferg’s “Floor Seats,” Preap’s electrifying walk-up song, played throughout the stadium. The crowd rose to their feet. Preap skied a fly ball to left field, scoring freshman Michael Crossland from third base … or so we thought.


While Triton fans rejoiced and high-fived one another in the stands, and the Tritons in the dugout “atta boy’d” Preap for his sacrifice fly, the Tigers prepared to appeal the play. 


Kane stepped into the box, but he would never see a pitch. The Tigers’ pitcher stepped off and threw the baseball to third base. The third baseman stepped on third and looked at the umpire, who made a fist, raised his arm, and declared Crossland “out.” 


The crowd went silent. All hope was seemingly lost, as an appeal had just shot the life out of the home team. Was this the play that would derail the comeback? After so many chances with the bases loaded, would this be how the Tritons’ win streak ended? Maybe … maybe if the Tritons didn’t have one last hurrah when nobody — not even their own fans — could sense a comeback.


In the bottom of the ninth, with all of the energy sucked from the stadium, the Tritons revamped, regrouped, and reengineered just enough of a spark to light the flame.


Oh, and they had some help from the Tigers.


Halbach ripped a one-out single to left field, giving the Tritons hope. Preap was drilled by a pitch for the second time in the game, and with two outs, Kane got hit by a pitch to load the bases for Gonzalez.


Base hit! Halbach and Preap score to tie the game. Gonzalez singles through the left side of the infield to tie the game! 


With the game knotted at 3–3, Triton manager Eric Newman turned to senior outfielder Brock Kleszcz as a pinch hitter. Just as the crowd settled down from Gonzalez’s single, Kleszcz — ice cold off the bench, with evidently all of that ice in his veins — barrelled a double into the left-center gap to score Kane for the walk-off, game-winning run. It was time to party at Triton Ballpark.


The stadium speakers blasted Waka Flocka’s “Grove St. Party,” as fans jumped up and down. The Triton dugout emptied as the entire bench rushed Kleszcz, who rounded first base and headed straight for the outfield, anticipating a mosh-pit celebration from his teammates. A game that had a dismal start turned out to be the best game of the year, as the Tritons won it 4–3.


On Saturday, the Tritons bested Pacific again to extend their winning streak to 7 games. Watch the Tritons take on the University of Nevada, Reno at home on Monday, March 11 at Triton Ballpark at 6 p.m.


Leave a Comment
About the Contributors
Wyatt Bose
Wyatt Bose, Staff Writer
Wyatt is a first-year political science student, an ardent sports-watcher, an impassioned Philadelphia sports fan, and the founder of his sports blog, "The Cogent Column."
Sarah He
Sarah He, Co-Webmaster, Photographer & Data Visualizer
1st year | Data Science & Cognitive Science
More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The UCSD Guardian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *