Tuesday, March 25 • 5 p.m.
Cougar Baseball Field • Azusa
Saturday, March 29 • 11 a.m.
Pioneer Baseball Field • Hayward
Sunday, March 30 • 11 a.m.
Pioneer Baseball Field • Hayward
Following a one-week break from competitive action for winter quarter final exams, UC San Diego faces a busy Spring Break with six road games in seven days. The stretch begins with a pair of non-conference tilts at new Division II foe Azusa Pacific University on Monday, March 24, and Tuesday, March 25, both at 5 p.m. The Tritons then head to the Bay Area for a four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series at Cal State East Bay in Hayward. UCSD and CSUEB open the set at Pioneer Baseball Field on Friday, March 28, at 11 a.m.
At 13-8 overall and 10-6 in the CCAA, the Tritons were fourth in the league standings through games played on Friday, March 21. The Pioneers are two full games back at 14-10 overall and an even 8-8 in CCAA play. The Tritons are 7-3 over their last 10 and 3-2 away from home.
All UCSD home games at Triton Ballpark feature a live online video stream and live stats. Weeknight CCAA contests will additionally have audio commentary, provided again by former Triton pitcher Tim Strombel (2007-08). The audio/video is free, but does require registration and a login. Some road contests will also have video. Though previously conveyed that Monday and Tuesday's games in Azusa would have live video, they unfortunately will not. Fans can access all live coverage for home and away dates from the Schedule/Results page. Finally, starting lineups, live between-inning updates and other in-game news and notes can be found during home contests and some road games by following Triton Baseball all season long on the UCSD Athletics Twitter handle (@UCSDtritons).
UCSD, which appeared at No. 39 in the preseason edition of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's NCAA Division II top-40 poll released back on Dec. 24, returned to the CBN poll this past week with a share of the No. 30 spot. UCSD is also getting votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) poll, and has gradually moved up from No. 10 (preseason) to No. 4 in the NCBWA West Region listing. Cal State East Bay is currently No. 5 in the West.
ABOUT THE COUGARS
Azusa Pacific (16-6, 10-2 PacWest) has won four games in a row, most recently taking a 5-1 home decision over Cal State Dominguez Hills on Friday night. Junior right-hander Zach Hedges struck out a career-high 12 and took a three-hit shutout into the ninth inning in that one. The Cougars are an even 3-3 against CCAA opponents in 2014, 8-2 over their last 10 and 16-2 at home. They sit in second place in the nine-team PacWest, behind only Dixie State (12-2). Sophomore right-hander Josh Staumont, who spent his freshman season at Biola, is a legitimate Major League Baseball prospect from the Division II ranks with a fastball touching 98-99 mph. He is currently 5-2 with a 1.90 ERA and 51 strikeouts over 47.1 innings pitched. As a staff, the Cougars boast a 1.98 ERA. Azusa Pacific has a team batting average of .302 with 22 home runs, led by Jordan Brower's (.337) six. APU is in the third year of a three-year transition period from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) into the NCAA Division II, and thus is not eligible for the 2014 NCAA Championship. The Cougars are coached by Paul Svagdis, now in his 12th season.
Azusa Pacific leads the all-time series, 19-7. The teams have played just three times in the last 13 years since UCSD moved up to Division II. The Cougars took a 7-5 decision in 11 innings at Triton Ballpark last season on April 13. APU trailed 5-1 after four frames that day before rallying, tying the game with a three-run eighth before winning in extras. The 2003 campaign saw UCSD win 19-6 at home and then 7-5 in Azusa. UCSD and APU will conclude their four-game season series with a doubleheader in La Jolla on Saturday, April 26, starting at 2 p.m.
ABOUT THE PIONEERS
Cal State East Bay (14-10, 8-8 CCAA) is coming off of a four-game split at home against nationally-ranked Cal Poly Pomona, March 14-16. Like the Tritons, the Pioneers have been idle for final exams this week. East Bay is 10-6 in Hayward in 2014. Senior right-hander Nick Hudson is the Pioneers' ace, now at 5-1 with a 3.10 ERA. Having made seven relief appearances in a Triton uniform in 2010 and 2011, Hudson went seven strong innings for East Bay against his former team in the series finale in La Jolla last season, giving up just a single run on five hits and three walks while striking out six. Fellow senior right-hander Sean Becker (3-2, 2.91 ERA) was an All-CCAA Second Team selection in 2013. Senior rightfielder and clean-up hitter Brandon Alexander has started all 24 games and is batting .305 with team bests of seven doubles, 14 walks and 21 RBI. The Pioneers as a team have a .272 batting average and 3.22 ERA. Bob Ralston is in his third season in charge at his alma mater.
UCSD leads the all-time series, 16-8-1, and holds an 11-5 advantage since 2010, when Cal State East Bay joined the CCAA as its 11th member. The teams previously faced off nine times as fellow NCAA Division III programs prior to UCSD’s move up to Division II in 2001. Each of the last two years have resulted in four-game splits. Both times, the home team produced a doubleheader sweep in the middle of two wins by the visitors. Last season, the Pioneers posted scores of 10-7 and 11-3 around Triton victories of 3-2 and 3-0. The 2012 season featured four close affairs in Hayward in early March. UCSD bookended the series with wins of 5-4 and 4-1 around a doubleheader sweep by East Bay, 6-5 in 10 innings and 3-2 in seven. In La Jolla in 2011, the then-top-ranked Tritons took three out of four.
LAST TIME OUT
Last weekend, UCSD split a four-game home series with Cal State Monterey Bay, the team that ended its run of four successive CCAA regular-season titles. The Tritons won the opener and finale by scores of 10-2 and 4-3, suffering a doubleheader sweep in between, 10-5 and 6-2. UCSD needed a pinch-hit single from Gradeigh Sanchez to walk it off in the ninth inning of the Sunday finale and earn the split.
FACE ON FIRE
Nick La Face is having an incredible final year in a Triton uniform. He has played in 20 of 21 games, starting all 20, and is batting a team-best .418. That average is second-best in the CCAA, while La Face leads the league in four other categories: triples (3), walks (20), on-base percentage (.571) and slugging percentage (.657). He also paces UCSD in hits (28), doubles (7), home runs (tied-1), total bases (44) and RBI (tied-20). La Face had one career triple before belting a pair in the series with Chico State and adding a third in the finale with Cal State Monterey Bay (3/16). His only home run of 2014 so far came at home against Chico State (2/15). He reached base in six straight plate appearances prior to a strikeout in the third inning of the doubleheader opener with CSUMB (3/15). La Face is a blistering 12-for-20 (.600) over the last six contests, with four doubles, one triple, seven walks, seven runs and 10 RBI. He drew at least one walk (15 total) in 11 straight games prior to the series finale with CSUMB.
Justin Donatella (4-1) achieved a new career long in each of his first four starts of 2014. He is a perfect 4-0 in his four conference starts, and has the fifth-best ERA in the CCAA at 0.84. The sophomore right-hander begins this week on a shutout stretch of 16.0 innings going back to late in his Feb. 20 start at No. 15 Cal Poly Pomona. Over his last two outings, he is 2-0 and has given up just six hits and three walks without a run over 14.1 innings, with 20 strikeouts. Donatella allowed two runs on four hits and three walks over 7.0 innings at CPP, retiring 11 straight Broncos at one point. He gave up one hit over six shutout innings in an 8-1 victory over then-12th-ranked Chico State (2/14), walking two with six strikeouts while outdueling Chico State ace and then-reigning CCAA Pitcher of the Week Nick Baker. Donatella set down 10 batters in a row during one stretch. That win was his second as a college pitcher and first as a starter. Donatella was the individual story of the exhibition season. The big 6-foot-6 product of Saugus who saw just 13.2 innings of work as a freshman in 2013 (11.20 ERA), wrapped up his preseason with nine shutout frames over two starts with six hits allowed, all singles, no walks, and 14 strikeouts.
Triton sophomore Troy Cruz has been a jack of all trades once again this season. The 2013 All-CCAA First Team selection at utility is the only Triton who has started all 21 games, at either third base (14), designated hitter (three) or pitcher (four). He has also made two relief appearances. In his first mound start of the season on Feb. 16, Cruz matched his career-long effort of 7.0 innings (6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) to earn the win and the series split for UCSD against Chico State. He duplicated that effort in his most recent stint against Cal State Monterey Bay (3/16), throwing an effective seven frames as the Tritons gained the split, though without a decision. Cruz tossed the first complete game by a UCSD pitcher in 2014, going 6.0 innings in a 12-4 win at CSUDH (3/8). He accounted for the Tritons' lone complete game in 2013 as well. Cruz hit in the leadoff position in each of the first eight games, and is now batting .299 with a team-leading (tied) 20 RBI.
HE'S THE MANN
In his first season at UCSD following a transfer from Diablo Valley College, junior Michael Mann has made an immediate impact on the program, starting 20 of 21 games at first base and reaching base in all 20. He is hitting at a .342 clip (25-for-73) and has the longest current hit streak of any Triton at seven straight contests. Mann has missed just the series opener at Cal Poly Pomona (2/20). He has UCSD's lone four-hit game in 2014, coming in the opener of a doubleheader at Cal State Dominguez Hills on March 8, and has also produced a four-RBI performance in the nightcap of that same twin bill.
LEAGUE LEADERS IN GETTING PLUNKED
Through 21 games, UCSD players have been hit a league-leading 44 times by opposing pitchers. The next closest are Cal State Monterey Bay (39) and Chico State (36). UCSD ranks seventh nationally in the category. Thirteen different Tritons have been hit at least once, led by Brett Levy and Michael Mann with seven apiece. The duo is tied for third in the conference.
UCSD entered its series with Cal Poly Pomona Feb. 20-22 with six double plays over its first nine games. The Tritons turned nine during the four-game weekend split, with four in the opener and three the next day. Four different CPP batters hit into the four double plays in that first game, with the first two started by Tyler Howsley, a true freshman making just his fourth start at shortstop. The last two came in the eighth and ninth, with a pair of Broncos on base each time as UCSD held on for a 4-2 victory. The Tritons had last turned four double plays at San Francisco State on April 30, 2010. That 2010 squad that went 54-8 and lost in the national championship game, set a school record with 68 twin killings on the year. The Tritons have now turned 22 double plays through 21 games in 2014, ranking third in the CCAA and tied for 16th nationally in Division.
UCSD has two walk-off wins in 2014, both closely involving sophomore Gradeigh Sanchez. In the first game of a Feb. 22 doubleheader with Cal Poly Pomona, UCSD produced its first such triumph, 6-5, as Garrett Tuck's single to center drove in Troy Cruz from second base. Sanchez had stolen home as a pinch-runner to level the score just moments before as the Tritons erased the 5-4 ninth-inning deficit. Then in the March 16 series finale with Cal State Monterey Bay, Sanchez provided the pinch-hit, two-out single through the left side of the infield on an 0-2 pitch to plate Brett Levy from second base in the 4-3 triumph. Watch it here.
LA FACE NAMED CCAA PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Nick La Face was selected on March 10 as the CCAA Baseball Player of the Week for the week of March 3-9. La Face, a native of North Hollywood (Notre Dame HS), continued his hot start to his fifth and final season as a Triton, leading UCSD to a four-game, split-venue CCAA series sweep over Cal State Dominguez Hills. He hit .545 (6-for-11) with eight walks for a .737 on-base percentage and two doubles for a .727 slugging percentage. La Face started all four games, scored four runs and drove in seven. He was the second Triton to earn a weekly conference honor after Justin Rahn on Feb. 3.
DIVISION II SINGLE-GAME STRIKEOUT KING
Sophomore right-hander Justin Donatella struck out a career-high 13 over a career-long 8.1 innings (3 H, 0 BB) in a 1-0 home victory against Cal State Dominguez Hills on Thursday, March 6. The strikeout total was a UCSD program record in the NCAA Division II era (since 2001). Matt Rossman struck out 12 over a remarkable 11.0 innings against Central Missouri at the 2010 NCAA Division II Championship in Cary, N.C., on May 24, 2010, and Jeff Rauh set down 12 on strikes in six complete frames vs. Western Oregon on 2012 Opening Day (2/3). Donatella tossed 6.2 no-hit innings before allowing a double.
UCSD put together a five-run second inning and benefitted from four errors in posting a second successive shutout victory against Cal State Dominguez Hills, 7-0, at Triton Ballpark on March 7. The Tritons thus produced back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1995, having blanked the Toros in the opener of their four-game CCAA series the previous night, 1-0. In 1995, UCSD had shutout wins on the road at Concordia, 5-0, on April 3, and Southern California College (now Vanguard), 6-0, on April 5. The latter result marked UCSD’s third shutout of 2014 after the 9-0 decision vs. Holy Names on Opening Day (2/2).
UCSD produced a resounding doubleheader sweep at home over Holy Names University on Opening Day on Feb. 2. Scores were 11-1 and 9-0 as the Tritons came up with 22 hits while allowing just nine. Every player who started one or both games, had at least one hit and one run on the afternoon. Senior leftfielder Justin Rahn led the way with a .444 average (4-for-9) and five RBI. Starting pitchers Blake Fassler and Dan Kolodin each tossed five strong innings in earning the winning decisions. Also of note in his collegiate debut was redshirt freshman outfielder Brandon Shirley lacing a 2-2 pitch down the left field line for a double in the eighth inning of game one to punctuate the first at-bat of his Triton career.
WEEKLY AWARD FOR RAHN
Justin Rahn's stellar Opening Day netted him the season's first CCAA Baseball Player of the Week award on Feb. 3. It was the first of his career. Rahn put UCSD on the scoreboard in both victories over Holy Names, clearing the bases with a three-run double to left in the first inning of game one and adding the first home run by a Triton in 2014, a two-run shot to center, in the second inning of the nightcap.
Justin Rahn is the only Triton to have reached base in all 21 games so far in 2014 ... Senior right-hander Blake Fassler, who walked just nine in 64.2 innings against 50 strikeouts for a stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.56 in 2013, has gone at least 5.0 innings in 12 of his 14 starting assignments as a Triton, including four of five in 2014 ... UCSD ended then-15th-ranked and previously undefeated Cal Poly Pomona's perfect 10-0 start to the campaign with a 4-2 victory behind seven strong innings from Justin Donatella and four clutch double plays defensively in Pomona (2/20) ... UCSD is 2-1 in season openers under Eric Newman and 11-3 since moving to Division II status for 2001 ... UCSD is 2-1 in CCAA openers with Newman in charge, with back-to-back wins after a 4-1 loss to Chico State in La Jolla on Feb. 17, 2012 ... The Tritons are an even 7-7 in CCAA openers all-time (since 2001), and 7-1 with six splits in sets to begin the league season ... Having earned a third straight split with a 7-3 win in the Sunday finale on Feb. 16, UCSD still has not lost its regular-season four-game series with rival Chico State since 2007, when it dropped three of four in Chico ... Troy Cruz was named on Jan. 29 to the utility position on the 15-player NCBWA Preseason All-West Region First Team ... UCSD was picked to place sixth in the 2014 CCAA regular-season race by the league's 11 head coaches, also as announced on Jan. 29, with 2013 West Region runner-up Chico State favored for the third time in as many years to finish first, and reigning CCAA regular-season champion Cal State Monterey Bay projected for second ... All but two players on the 37-man 2014 roster, junior pitcher Alon Leichman (Kibbutz Gezer, Israel) and redshirt outfielder Tim White (Stratford, CT), are California natives ... Besides Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS), the four remaining San Diego products are fellow sophomore Adrian Orozco (Chula Vista/Otay Ranch HS), redshirt freshman Austin Hensley (San Diego/Valhalla HS) and redshirts Steven Coe (Valley Center/Valley Center HS) and Gabe Simpson (Encinitas/Cathedral Catholic HS).
UCSD's 2014 schedule consists of 46 regular-season games (following four rain cancellations with Sonoma State), including 22 at home within the friendly confines of Triton Ballpark. The Tritons have the luxury of facing the two projected favorites in the CCAA, Chico State and Cal State Monterey Bay, a combined eight times in La Jolla. UCSD plays 16 of its first 21 at home, but closes with 19 of 25 on the road. For the second year in a row, the CCAA Championship will be held at Stockton's neutral-site Banner Island Ballpark, home of the Stockton Ports, the Class A Advanced affiliate of Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics. The four-team tournament takes place May 8-11, with UCSD a five-time champion (2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012).
PLENTY OF TALENT BACK
UCSD's 36-player 2014 roster features 17 letterwinners, two returning redshirts and 17 newcomers. The Tritons bring back six of nine position starters, as well as three of four starting pitchers from a year ago. Troy Cruz was the 2013 CCAA Freshman of the Year and an All-CCAA First Team honoree after a standout rookie campaign as a multiple threat on the mound, in the field and at the plate. The senior tandem of fifth-year catcher Nick La Face and fourth-year left-sided infielder Garrett Tuck were both All-West Region selections in 2012, and are each former All-CCAA First Team picks in their own right, with Tuck in 2012 and La Face in 2011. Tuck earned that distinction at shortstop, and looks to be back at that position after spending 2013 at third base. Spencer Frazier and Justin Rahn are two more senior veterans who garnered All-CCAA honorable mention in 2012. On the mound, right-handers Cruz, Blake Fassler and Dan Kolodin were in the rotation in 2013. Senior right-hander Scott Zeman and junior left-hander Chad Rieser are again available out of the bullpen.
NEWS ON NEWCOMERS
There are 17 players new to the Triton roster. Junior transfers Erik Lewis and Michael Mann are everyday starters at second and first base, respectively. Lewis spent the 2013 season at Fullerton College after beginning his college career at Division I Big West Conference power Long Beach State. He is currently second in the CCAA in walks (18), tied for second in runs (21) and third in on-base percentage (.468). Mann is from Diablo Valley College. Jack Larsen, Christian Leung and Tyler Howsley are a trio of true freshmen who have earned their college debuts and started several games. Larsen and Howsley were teammates at Capistrano Valley High School. Three new arms to see the mound this season have been Eric Moersen, a sophomore left-handed specialist who transferred from the University of Utah, and junior right-handers Javier Carrillo Jr., and Dean Friedberg. Moersen needed 12 pitches to retire the first three batters he faced over three appearances, with two on strikes. Eight newcomers are slated to redshirt.
HEAD COACH ERIC NEWMAN
Eric Newman is in his third season as the UCSD head coach. The 2012 CCAA Coach of the Year has a 72-56 record (56-40 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 167-128 overall in his five seasons as a head coach. Newman guided UCSD to the 2012 CCAA regular-season and tournament titles in his first go-around in La Jolla, and a subsequent berth in the NCAA Division II West Regional. He previously spent three years at the helm of Dallas Baptist University from 2004-07.
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Following this week, UCSD awaits a four-game, split-venue series with 2013 CCAA tournament champion Cal State L.A. The Tritons will host the Golden Eagles in single primetime affairs (6 p.m.) on Thursday, April 3, and Friday, April 4, before embarking on a season-long 11-game road stretch with a doubleheader at Reeder Field in Los Angeles on Saturday, April 5.