No. 12 UC San Diego Plays Four at Sonoma State Ahead of Break for Final Exams
The No. 12 University of California San Diego baseball program is in the Bay Area this weekend for another four-game California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series, against Sonoma State (8-6, 4-4 CCAA). The fifth-place Tritons (11-6, 7-5 CCAA) will open the series at Seawolf Diamond in Rohnert Park on Friday, March 9, at 2 p.m. The teams will contest an 11 a.m. doubleheader on Saturday, March 10, with the nightcap of the shortened seven-inning variety, with about a 40-minute gap in between games. Sunday's series finale is also set for an 11 a.m. start. Attendance is free all weekend at Seawolf Diamond. The Tritons are 3-2 on the road in 2018. This series continues a season-long 10-game road stretch for UCSD. It will also mark the first of three regular-season Northern California trips for the Tritons, with a hopeful return in May for the CCAA Championship.
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 none will in Rohnert Park this weekend. 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), and moved down just five spots in the first in-season edition on Monday. 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 receiving votes and No. 20, respectively. Regionally speaking, UCSD is listed No. 5 in the West by the NCBWA.
|Tritons in the Polls|
|Collegiate Baseball Newspaper||No. 12||No. 7||N/A|
|NCBWA||RV||No. 4||No. 5|
|Perfect Game||No. 20||No. 19||N/A|
LAST TIME OUT
UC San Diego split its four-game, split-venue series with rival Cal Poly Pomona. The teams split both the two single meetings in La Jolla, and the doubleheader in Pomona that was moved from Saturday to Sunday due to weather. The Tritons dropped the Thursday night opener, 8-3, before earning a 6-4 decision the following afternoon, holding on after going up 5-0 through a four-run seventh that ended with a two-run Zander Clarke home run. Preston Mott tossed seven shutout innings in that one, with a career-best 10 strikeouts. CPP scored twice in each of the first two frames for a 4-2 win to begin the twin bill. The Tritons then rallied from deficits of 4-0 and 6-4 with back-to-back four-run outbursts in the fifth and sixth, of the seven-inning nightcap. The final was 8-7. Cameron Kurz notched the save in both UCSD victories, ending each contest on a strikeout with the tying run on base.
FIRST WEEKLY HONORS FOR MOTT AFTER LIGHTS-OUT START
On Tuesday, junior left-hander Preston Mott was selected the CCAA and NCBWA West Region Pitcher of the Week, both for the first time in his career. The awards came thanks to seven shutout innings against then-14th-ranked Cal Poly Pomona in a 6-4 home victory on Friday afternoon, March 2, with a career-best 10 strikeouts. Mott scattered just three singles and a walk. He had two perfect frames and also struck out the side twice. Mott has won his last three starts, allowing just a single run in 18.0 innings for a 0.50 ERA. His season ERA is down to 1.59, and he is tied for third in the CCAA with his 34 strikeouts. Mott has improved on his single-game career best in punch-outs three separate times already in 2018.
BIG WEEK NETS ELIOPULOS SEVERAL AWARDS
For the week of Feb. 19-25, Alex Eliopulos was named 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 Feb. 23 and in Carson to begin the Feb. 24 doubleheader, and in fact has three of them on the season. All seven of his home runs have been mammoth shots to right field.
TOP 10 IN NATIONAL STATISTICS
As of the NCAA Division II statistical report from March 5, Alex Eliopulos is fifth nationally with his seven home runs, and eighth with 24 RBI. Nick Kitzmann is fifth with nine hit-by-pitches, Cameron Kurz sixth with four saves, and Preston Mott eighth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (11.33). The Tritons' top ranking as a team is 11th in walks (92).
Alex Eliopulos leads the CCAA in hits (26), home runs (seven) and total bases (51). Freshman shortstop Shay Whitcomb is tops in walks (12) and runs (17). Tyler Durna has a share of the triples lead with two.
UC San Diego leads the CCAA with 16 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 to kick off the Feb. 24 doubleheader 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 also split a four-game set with then-14th-ranked 2015 and 2016 West Region champion Cal Poly Pomona, March 1-4. The Tritons still 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 4.21 ERA.
UCSD continues a tradition of being strong defensively, currently third in the CCAA with a .974 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 nine 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, 13 of the 16, with three 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 219-131 record (150-92 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 314-203 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 SEAWOLVES
Sonoma State (8-6, 4-4 CCAA) won its four-game series at Stanislaus State over the weekend, 3-1. The Seawolves swept the Sunday doubleheader of the weather-altered set by final scores of 7-6 and 4-3. Monday's twin bill was split, both again by one-run margins, 2-1 in favor of Sonoma State and then 3-2 in the seven-inning nightcap for the home side. The Seawolves are 2-3 at home in 2018, having dropped their CCAA season-opening series there to then-ninth-ranked reigning league double champion Chico State, 3-1. John Goelz is in his 33rd season in charge at Sonoma State, and has compiled over 1,000 career wins.
UCSD leads the all-time series, 38-32. The Tritons dropped the first meeting of last year's three-game set in La Jolla, 5-1, before surging to a doubleheader sweep the next day by scores of 11-1 and 14-1. The teams split a shortened two-gamer in Rohnert Park in 2016, the Tritons winning 3-2 before being blanked, 1-0, in the doubleheader nightcap. UCSD posted a 3-1 series victory at SSU in 2015. All four of those contests were also close. The Tritons edged out 4-3, 4-1 and 4-3 decisions with a 5-3 loss in the seven-inning doubleheader nightcap. The four-game set in La Jolla in 2014 was entirely and uncharacteristically (for San Diego) wiped out by rain, even after Sonoma State had made the trip south. The Seawolves won three of four at home in 2013, with UCSD only salvaging the finale, 11-3. The 2012 season saw the Tritons take six out of a total of seven head-to-head matchups, all in La Jolla. After sweeping the four-game regular-season set, UCSD faced off with Sonoma State three more times at home in the CCAA Championship, and ultimately retained its tournament trophy. UCSD's last series defeat to SSU prior to 2013 came in its 2009 visit to Rohnert Park, also by a 3-1 count. That set featured some remarkable pitching and great drama as all four contests were decided by a single run (1-2, 2-3, 2-3, 3-2).
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!
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UC San Diego will take winter quarter final exams, and then head back north to Seaside for a four-game series at Cal State Monterey Bay, March 25-26.