West Powers Collide: No. 7 UCSD Meets No. 14 Cal Poly Pomona for Four Beginning in La Jolla Thursday-Friday
The seventh-ranked University of California San Diego baseball program continues California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) play this week with a second straight four-game, split-venue series against a southern foe, this time No. 14 Cal Poly Pomona (6-4, 3-1 CCAA). The Tritons (9-4, 5-3 CCAA) and Broncos will meet twice initially at Triton Ballpark on East Campus in La Jolla, on Thursday, March 1, and Friday, March 2, both in primetime at 6 p.m. The series will then shift to Scolinos Field in Pomona on Saturday, March 3, for a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. Please be aware of the later start time than the originally-published 12 p.m. The nightcap will once again be of the shortened seven-inning variety, with about a 40-minute gap in between games. Saturday's series finale is not expected to begin before 5:30 p.m., regardless of the finish of the first contest, due to a fireworks show on Homecoming at CPP.
This week's series will pit the last three seasons worth of West Region champions, as CPP won in 2015, at home over UC San Diego in fact, and again in 2016, before the Tritons swept through last year's West Regional en route to finishing as national runners-up. The Tritons are 7-3 at home and 2-1 on the road in 2018. Saturday's doubleheader in Pomona kicks off a season-long 10-game road stretch for UCSD.
ADMISSION POLICIES FOR TRITON BALLPARK
General admission tickets to all regular-season home dates at Triton Ballpark are $5, whether a single game or doubleheader. UC San Diego students are admitted FREE with valid identification. Dogs and other pets are not allowed, nor are coolers. Bullseye Kettle Corn is on site for all home contests, with the menu featuring hot dogs, nachos, and of course, kettle corn, among other snacks, as well as both cold and hot beverages, like coffee, tea and hot chocolate.
Parking on the UCSD campus is free on weekends, but a permit is required for weeknight contests. They can be purchased at the machine near the entrance to the Triton Ballpark parking lot. Please be aware of the danger of foul balls to your vehicle when parking. Overflow parking is available adjacent to the aquatics facility (across freeway bridge), or in the opposite direction, further down Voigt Drive and well beyond the right field wall and trolley construction site.
UC San Diego home games at Triton Ballpark feature live online video on UCSDtritons.tv. All broadcasts are in high definition, and can be viewed from smartphones and tablets. Viewing is subscription-based, though it is free from UCSD campus IP addresses. The single-day fee is $5.99 (24-hour window), meaning doubleheaders are two-for-one. The play-by-play commentary is again provided by local radio personality Ted Mendenhall (@TedMendenhall). Events are archived. Some road contests also have video and/or audio, though it did not appear at press time that Saturday's doubleheader in Pomona will be broadcast. All games have live stats. Fans can access live coverage from the Schedule/Results page, or by clicking on the links above. Starting lineups, live between-inning updates and other in-game news and notes can be found this year primarily by following Triton Baseball all season long at their own Twitter handle (@UCSDbsb), with Instagram stories at @ucsd_baseball. Fans are encouraged to also still follow @UCSDtritons. Finally, check out the CCAA live scoreboard here to keep up on results around the league.
On Nov. 27, UC San Diego was officially invited to become a member of the NCAA Division I Big West Conference. The Tritons will begin a four-year reclassification period starting in the fall of 2020. They will play a full Big West schedule that season and will be eligible for the NCAA Championship in men's volleyball, men's and women's water polo, and fencing. For the 2024-25 academic year, all sports will be eligible to compete in Big West and NCAA Division I championships. Read the full press release here.
UC San Diego was at No. 7 in the preseason edition of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's NCAA Division II top-40 poll (Dec. 20), with the first in-season edition expected on Monday, March 5. The Tritons were No. 4 and No. 19 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and Perfect Game preseason polls, respectively, and are now No. 20 and No. 19, respectively. D2 Baseball News has yet to unveil a poll. Regionally speaking, UCSD is listed No. 3 in the West by the NCBWA, and No. 2 by D2 Baseball News (Jan. 29).
|Tritons in the Polls|
|Collegiate Baseball Newspaper||No. 7||No. 7||N/A|
|NCBWA||No. 20||No. 4||No. 3|
|Perfect Game||No. 19||No. 19||N/A|
|D2 Baseball News||TBA||TBA||No. 2|
LAST TIME OUT
UC San Diego achieved its first CCAA series victory of the 2018 season last week, 3-1 over Cal State Dominguez Hills. The Tritons swept the two meetings in La Jolla, 3-2 in walk-off fashion in 10 innings and then a much more comfortable 14-3, before settling for the split of a Saturday doubleheader in Carson. They won game one, 10-7, but were unable to protect a 4-3 lead heading into the last half of the shortened nightcap, falling 5-4 in eight innings on a bases-loaded, walk-off single. Alex Eliopulos took a star turn in the absence of Tyler Durna, hitting two home runs in back-to-back games on Friday night and then to kick off Saturday's twin bill. He slugged 1.467 and drove in eight runs on the weekend, earning several awards. Preston Mott produced the best mound outing, striking out a career-high nine in five frames in the second matchup.
BIG WEEK NETS ELIOPULOS SEVERAL AWARDS
Alex Eliopulos was named this week among Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's National Players of the Week, with the other 11 all being from Division I, as well as the CCAA Player of the Week for the first time, and then NCBWA West Region Player of the Week. That all came after a Cal State Dominguez Hills series in which he hit .600 (9-15) and slugged 1.467, with a .714 on-base percentage, four home runs, one double, six runs, eight RBI and six walks. The La Jolla native produced back-to-back two-home-run games at home on Friday night and in Carson to begin Saturday's doubleheader, and in fact has three of them now already on the season. All seven of his home runs have been mammoth shots to right field.
The first statistical report of the season for NCAA Division II was finally released on Tuesday. Most notably for UC San Diego, Alex Eliopulos was tied for first with three others with his seven home runs, and tied for second with three others with 23 RBI.
Alex Eliopulos now leads the CCAA in several categories, including slugging (.870), runs (14), hits (23), RBI (23), home runs (seven) and at-bats (54). Fellow junior Tyler Durna shares the top rung in runs scored, and is fourth in batting (.429), just ahead of Eliopulos' .426. Durna also has a share of the triples lead with two and is fourth in on-base percentage (.556) and sixth in slugging (.686). Nick Kitzmann is second with his .594 on-base percentage and seven hit-by-pitches. Freshman Shay Whitcomb is tops in walks (11) and sacrifice flies (tied-three), and tied for third with 13 runs.
UC San Diego leads the CCAA with 14 home runs after having topped the league with 53 a year ago. The first 10 were all to right field, prior to Zander Clarke's solo shot to left center in the first inning of Saturday's first game at CSUDH. Among a league-best seven by redshirt junior third baseman Alex Eliopulos was his first grand slam in a UCSD jersey, and three two-home-run games. UC San Diego's 53 long balls last season included 11 in a four-game series against Cal State San Bernardino to wrap up the regular season, and 11 more in six contests at the CCAA Championship. The Tritons topped the league thanks to a late-season outburst that saw them hit at least one long ball in a Division II-era (since 2001) program-record 11 consecutive games (May 4-18), with multiple blasts in eight of them, and 26 in all over the last 20 contests. It was the most home runs by a UCSD squad since the Tritons had 60 in 2010. The 53 were more than what UCSD managed in the previous three years combined (41), and is the fourth-largest single-season total in the program's D-II history.
DURNA NAMED CCAA PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Junior first baseman Tyler Durna was named the CCAA Player of the Week for the third time in his career on Feb. 13. Durna hit .524 (11-21) and slugged .810 (2B, 3B, HR, 17 TB) with a .615 on-base percentage, all team bests, producing 11 hits, seven runs and 10 RBI. He walked five times without a single strikeout, and handled all 39 defensive chances cleanly. Durna reached base at least twice in each game.
UC San Diego wound up second in the CCAA South in 2017 behind Cal Poly Pomona (27-11) for the second year in a row, with a league record of 24-13, qualifying for a fourth consecutive CCAA Championship. That's when the Tritons caught fire, winning three straight elimination games at the CCAA Championship in Stockton before dropping a winner-take-all final to rival Chico State, and then sweeping through the NCAA West Regional with two victories each against higher seeds Dixie State and host Azusa Pacific. In its first return to the NCAA Championship since 2010, UC San Diego dropped a heartbreaker in its opener, only to take four more elimination games within a five-day span, and make it to the final round. Needing to beat West Chester of Pennsylvania twice on that final day of the season on June 4, the Tritons fell by a score of 5-2 in the initial meeting. Their final overall record stood at 44-19, marking the second-most wins in program history.
Last year, the Tritons were NCAA Division II West Region champions for the first time under head coach Eric Newman and third since moving up to Division II for the 2001 season. They were previously crowned in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010, finishing as national runners-up in the latter season, as well as in 2017. UC San Diego also won a pair of West titles in Division III, in 1987 and 1994.
UC San Diego head coach Eric Newman, the 2017 American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Diamond NCAA Division II West Region Coach of the Year, has 19 returners and 16 newcomers to form a 35-player roster for 2018, after last season's edition posted a 44-19 overall record and secured the program's first regional crown since 2010. It marked UCSD's second-best win total all-time, as Newman's club went 12-4 in postseason play, including 7-2 in elimination games.
The Tritons are led by junior first baseman Tyler Durna, who produced the opposite of a sophomore slump and took a star turn a year ago, with his team-best .363 batting average, dazzling defense, a memorable 28-game hitting streak, and a stretch of 41 straight contests in which he reached base safely. Redshirt junior Alex Eliopulos, a La Jolla native (La Jolla HS) and second-year transfer from San Diego Mesa College, should be across the diamond from Durna again at third base. Jack Rupe, Jr. (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS), is a fourth-year senior right-hander, and Preston Mott a junior left-hander who was the Opening Day mound starter in 2017.
Among the prized incoming contingent are a pair of notable transfers from Pac-12 Conference powerhouses in redshirt junior power-hitting outfielder Zander Clarke from UCLA and senior right-handed starting pitcher Mitch Hickey out of Oregon State. Clarke, who bats from the right side, slammed 15 total home runs over an incredible summer as the Great West League (GWL) Player of the Year with the Portland Pickles, adding a second straight GWL All-Star Game appearance and in fact, GWL All-Star Game Most Valuable Player distinction as well. All of that netted the Newbury Park native an outfield spot on the 2017 Perfect Game/Rawlings Summer Collegiate All-America First Team. Hickey was one of 13 arms who saw action for Oregon State during a historic 2017 campaign that finished at 56-6 at the College World Series. That staff completed the year with a 1.93 team ERA. Hickey, a product of Morgan Hill in Northern California, compiled a 4.91 ERA over seven relief appearances, with one save.
Not to be outshone is an exciting crop of true freshmen, highlighted by the likes of right-handers Noah Conlon and Cameron Leonard, and shortstop Shay Whitcomb. In late September, Whitcomb and Conlon made Perfect Game's Top NCAA Division II Freshmen list at No. 7 and No. 8, respectively, among 34 total prospects recognized. UC San Diego was one of four programs with multiple freshmen honored, but the lone one from the West Region, and the only one nationally with two in the top 10.
UC San Diego's 2018 schedule consists of 49 regular-season games, including 26 at home. Having contested four of just five non-conference dates in La Jolla, including two top-10 matchups with No. 4 Colorado Mesa, the Tritons dove right into league play with a four-game home split against San Francisco State, Feb. 16-18. UCSD hosts 2015 and 2016 West Region champion Cal Poly Pomona this Thursday and Friday night, with a doubleheader in Pomona on Saturday to wrap up that series. The Tritons travel north for a four-gamer at two-time reigning CCAA tournament champion, 2017 CCAA regular-season champion and league favorite Chico State, April 6-8. The CCAA Championship will be held in the neutral-site city of Stockton for the sixth year in a row, returning to Banner Island Ballpark of the minor-league Stockton Ports, May 9-12. UCSD has earned four successive trips.
DURNA LOCKED IN
Tyler Durna finished fifth in the league with his team-best .363 batting average as a sophomore a year ago. He started each of the last 54 games at first base, reached safely in all but one, and had a hit in all but eight of them, including a 28-game streak from March 4-April 29 that was a record for UCSD's Division II era (since 2001), and likely a program standard. It is tied for the third-longest hit streak in the CCAA's unofficial record book. Durna had multiple hits in 16 of those 28 contests. He was fourth in the CCAA in on-base percentage (.469).
The UC San Diego pitching staff finished with a 3.67 ERA a season ago, 24th in the nation, fourth in the West Region and third in the CCAA. The Tritons have thus placed among the top three in the CCAA in ERA in five of the past six years. The UCSD staff in fact threw the most total innings in all of Division II in 2017, at 557.1, with fellow national semifinalist St. Thomas Aquinas closest at 530.1. The Tritons are currently fourth in the CCAA with a 3.86 ERA.
UCSD continues a tradition of being strong defensively, currently fourth in the CCAA with a .973 fielding percentage. The Tritons fielded at a .974 clip in 2017, ninth nationally and second in both the West and CCAA behind Division II-leading Chico State's .983. UCSD had finished at .970 for two straight years in 2015 and 2016, topping the CCAA and ranking 20th in Division II in the latter. The Tritons were second in the CCAA, behind only Cal Poly Pomona (.971), and 21st in Division II, in 2015. UCSD has been in the top 30 nationally and top three in the conference in fielding for each of the past eight seasons. The Tritons were also second in the CCAA (behind Chico State) in 2014 with a .974 clip, and fifth in the country. In 2013, they were second in the league behind Chico State and 11th nationally (.972). They were 29th in Division II in 2012 (.966) and third in the conference. UCSD led the nation with a Division II- and school-record mark of .984 (1611-673-38) in 2010 and was fifth in 2011 (.972), pacing the CCAA both years. Only one program in the country has even fielded at a .980 rate since 2010, and that was Chico State a year ago, falling just short of the Tritons' D-II standard.
Nick Kitzmann already has a team-best seven hit-by-pitches (No. 2 in CCAA), after six all of last year, and on Feb. 11 against Concordia Irvine became the first Triton to be hit by a pitch three times in the same game, since Nick La Face at Cal State LA on April 1, 2011 ... The 18 runners the Tritons stranded in their CCAA opener with SF State on Feb. 16 were their most since leaving 19 at Chico State over a decade ago on May 14, 2005, in a 12-inning, 7-6 triumph for the program's first CCAA tournament title ... UCSD's first 10 home runs of 2018 were all to right field, and so far, 12 of the 14, with two to left and none to center ... UCSD is 6-1 in season openers under Eric Newman and 15-3 since moving to Division II status for 2001 ... UCSD is 5-2 in CCAA openers with Newman in charge, having last Friday seen its five-game win streak snapped by SF State, 4-1, since another 4-1 loss to Chico State in La Jolla on Feb. 17, 2012 ... The Tritons are 10-8 in CCAA openers all-time (since 2001), and 10-1 with seven splits in sets to begin the league season ... UCSD was picked to place second in the 2018 CCAA race by the league's head coaches, as announced on Jan. 29, with defending CCAA regular-season and tournament champion Chico State the favorite for the sixth time in seven years.
The CCAA baseball landscape has changed again, and after having two six-team divisions, North and South, the past two seasons, there are no divisions in 2018. The top six teams, by straight winning percentage, in the final standings, will qualify for the 2018 CCAA Championship. Third-year member and city rival Cal State San Marcos is eligible for the postseason for the first time. The CCAA has also gone away from a 38-game league slate, with four-game sets within the division and three-gamers against the opposite division. Each team now plays a four-game series with the other 11 squads, for a 44-game schedule. UC San Diego is either entirely at home or away against the six northern teams, and faces split-venue sets with the southern ones. The automatic qualifier into the NCAA West Regional is still the winner of the CCAA tournament, which remains a four-day, double-elimination event.
UCSD returns two all-conference performers from 2017 in All-CCAA First Team first baseman Tyler Durna and Alex Eliopulos, who earned honorable mention ... Durna was also a unanimous All-West Region selection by ABCA/Rawlings (First Team), the NCBWA (First) and D2CCA (Second) ... Eliopulos represented the Tritons on the NCBWA's preseason All-West Region Second Team ... All but five players on the 35-man 2018 roster, senior Jesse Moore (Port Orchard, WA) and newcomers Warren King (Bainbridge Island, WA), Garett Lake (Henderson, NV), Nick Senicka (Oak Brook, IL) and Tom Simpson (Port Orchard, WA), are California natives ... There are four San Diego products in senior Jack Rupe, Jr. (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS), redshirt juniors Eliopulos (La Jolla/San Diego Mesa College/La Jolla HS) and Cameron Kurz (Encinitas/La Costa Canyon HS), and freshman Evan Ianniciello (San Marcos/San Marcos HS) ... Junior right-hander Jonah Dipoto is the son of Jerry Dipoto, who pitched eight seasons for three Major League Baseball organizations, and is the general manager of the Seattle Mariners ... Redshirt sophomore utility Keenan Brigman (San Jose/UOP) is the younger brother of former University of San Diego shortstop and current Seattle Mariners top-30 prospect (No. 28) Bryson Brigman, a third-round selection in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft ... True freshman right-hander Noah Conlon is the younger brother of PJ Conlon, a former left-handed ace for the University of San Diego who is currently the No. 23 prospect in the New York Mets organization.
Over the first week of UC San Diego's season, redshirt freshman Antonio Barrios, Blake Baumgartner, Aaron Kim, Kyle Selor and Brandon Stewart, and true freshmen Noah Conlon, Garett Lake, Cameron Leonard and Shay Whitcomb, all earned their college debuts. Transfers Justin Beck, Zander Clarke, Mitch Hickey, Rj Prince, Mark Quinby, Christopher Schasteen and Tom Simpson made their first appearances as Tritons.
HEAD COACH ERIC NEWMAN
Eric Newman is in his seventh season as the UC San Diego head coach. The 2017 ABCA/Diamond Division II West Region Coach of the Year and 2012 CCAA Coach of the Year has a 217-129 record (148-90 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 312-201 overall in his nine-plus 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 trip to the NCAA Division II West Regional. His Tritons won a record sixth conference tourney crown in May of 2014 in Stockton, to again nab the CCAA's automatic bid into the NCAA Championship. With UCSD earning the region's top seed, Triton Ballpark played host to the 2014 NCAA West Regional. After reaching the finals of the West Regional in both 2014 and 2015, UCSD won its first West crown since 2010 last week in Azusa. Newman has led the Tritons to three CCAA banners, four NCAA postseason berths and one regional championship in his six years, as well as six plus-.500 and five 30-win campaigns. Last year's was his first 40-win squad. He earned win No. 200 in charge of UCSD against Chico State, 13-4, on the final day of the 2017 CCAA Championship on May 13. Newman won his 100th CCAA contest at home against Cal State San Bernardino, 9-4, on Feb. 26, 2016. He previously went 95-72 in three seasons at the helm of Dallas Baptist University from 2005-07. Newman was the fifth-round draft choice of the San Diego Padres out of Texas Tech in 1994, pitching professionally for eight years with four different organizations.
Eric Newman has Justin James back on his staff for a second year as the pitching coach, and J.T. Bloodworth for a sixth season in the UC San Diego dugout, now in his fourth year as the Tritons' recruiting coordinator. Jeff Calhoon is in his third go-around with Newman, who has also retained two former star right-handed Triton pitchers and Chula Vista natives who graduated in 2017 in Troy Cruz and Adrian Orozco. Bloodworth coaches third base and Calhoon is again at first base.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS
No. 14 Cal Poly Pomona (6-4, 3-1 CCAA) is coming off a 3-1 series victory over Cal State San Marcos. The Broncos swept the two home meetings, 5-1 and 2-1. They then dropped the front end of a doubleheader in San Marcos on Sunday, 6-5, ahead of a 15-1 rout in the seven-inning finale. Austin Isenhart (0.86), a junior left-hander from the University of New Mexico, is the likely starter on Thursday night, though senior right-hander Ryan Alsworth (0.56) is coming off seven shutout frames against CSUSM on Saturday, with eight strikeouts. They are both 2-0 with a sub-1.00 ERA. In 2015, CPP secured its first CCAA regular-season title (28-12) since 1991, ahead of a first-ever tournament banner. The Broncos then earned the top seed in the West, and thus the right to host the West Regional for the first time since 1985, at Mt. SAC in nearby Walnut. CPP won that tourney over UCSD and ultimately was one of the last three teams left standing (46-17) in Cary, N.C. In 2016, the Broncos finished a full six games ahead of UCSD in the CCAA South, again ended the Tritons' season, this time on day three of the CCAA Championship, and earned a return trip to Cary as repeat champions of the West. The Broncos were among the final four squads remaining, getting eliminated by eventual national champion Nova Southeastern via 5-2 decision. Randy Betten, the 2015 NCBWA West Region and CCAA Coach of the Year, is in his eighth season in charge at Cal Poly Pomona.
UCSD leads the all-time series between these teams, 45-35, and holds a 27-21 advantage over the last 48 meetings since 2009. The sides have faced off six times in each of the last four seasons, including at least one postseason matchup (Tritons 3-4) in every one of those years. The Tritons went 2-4 against the Broncos in 2017 (1-1 at CCAA Championship) and 4-2 in 2016. In 2016, they first took a 6-2 non-conference decision in La Jolla (2/14), with Preston Mott tossing five shutout frames in his college debut. UCSD won the regular-season series, 3-1, taking the first three before dropping the finale in Pomona, 3-2. The Tritons then saw their season ended by the Broncos, 9-6, at the CCAA Championship. CPP went 5-1 against the Tritons in 2015, winning the regular-season set, 3-1, with UCSD only procuring the opener, 4-3, in walk-off fashion in 11. The Broncos were narrow 2-1 victors in the winner's bracket at the CCAA Championship, and 7-4 in a riveting West Region final in Walnut. The two teams played each other six times in 2014 as well, splitting their regular-season series before the Tritons took a pair of postseason matchups at the CCAA tourney and the West Regional. Four of those showdowns were decided in the final inning. Three were of the walk-off variety, with one apiece in Pomona and La Jolla before UCSD earned a 5-4 victory on an RBI double by Nick La Face with two outs in the 11th inning into the left field corner on the second night of the CCAA tournament in Stockton. Of the 24 meetings from 2014-17, nine had one-run margins, with UCSD 4-5 in those games, with four extra-inning affairs and seven walk-offs. Prior to 2014, the sides also split their four-game sets in 2012 and 2013, with both 2-2 at home and 2-2 on the road. CPP ended UCSD's 2011 season at the West Regional in La Jolla, and the Tritons returned the favor on May 16, 2014, through a 22-hit, 20-5 thumping. Thus, in four of the past seven years, one team has ended the other's season in this rivalry. Apart from that 20-5 rout, the average margin of the other 23 matchups (60/23) the last three seasons, has been 2.61 runs.
Triton Ballpark on East Campus at UCSD was given a brand-new look outside the foul lines in 2015. Some of the main features of the extensive renovation included a permanent grandstand to seat just over 500, a press box, new sunken dugouts, an area for food trucks, and restrooms, among several other amenities. Read details here. Perhaps most significant is the Marye Anne Fox Clubhouse down the right field line, which was introduced to the players on March 17, 2015. The official Triton Ballpark re-opening and clubhouse dedication took place on April 10, 2015. View photo galleries from the ballpark construction, Opening Day and dedication.
For the latest in Triton athletic gear, make sure to visit ucsdtritonsgear.com. Run by UCSD Athletics' online partner, Advanced-Online, the site provides an on-demand option for Triton athletic apparel and merchandise. Fans have access to over 600 products that can be processed and shipped within 24 hours.
FOR THE YOUNGER CROWD
Got some young Triton fans in your family? If they are in eighth grade or under, check out the Junior Triton Club. Membership includes a free t-shirt, admission to over 100 UCSD home athletic events, and much more!
SOCIAL MEDIA (#BigWestBound)
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UC San Diego will head north to Rohnert Park for a four-game series at Sonoma State, March 9-11.