No. 25 Tritons Searching for Record Seventh CCAA Championship Title Starting Wednesday in Stockton
The No. 25 University of California San Diego baseball program leaves East Campus by bus early Tuesday morning, May 8, headed north to Stockton for the 2018 California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championship. The second-seeded Tritons (34-15, 30-14 CCAA) are making their fifth straight appearance, and open the six-team, double-elimination event against fifth-seeded Cal State LA (27-22, 24-20 CCAA) on Wednesday, May 9, at 3 p.m. The venue is once again Banner Island Ballpark, home of the minor-league Stockton Ports.
If UC San Diego wins on Wednesday, they would play again in primetime on Thursday night, May 10, at 7 p.m., against the winner between third-seeded, two-time defending champion Chico State, and fourth-seeded Cal Poly Pomona. Should the Tritons falter on Wednesday, an elimination game awaits them at 11 a.m. on Thursday. Saturday's final is set for a 12 p.m. start, with an if-necessary second meeting slated for 4 p.m. The CCAA tournament champion once again earns the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Championship.
UC San Diego, a winner of 14 of its last 16 games, ranks second in the CCAA in batting (.309), third in team ERA (4.01), and first in fielding percentage (.973). Cal State LA is eighth in hitting (.277), ninth in ERA (5.28) and 12th in fielding (.954). The Tritons are 14-9 away from home in 2018. They did not win their regular-season series against any of the five other participants this week, splitting with four and dropping three out of four at Chico State.
General admission tickets for the 2018 CCAA Baseball Championship at Stockton's Banner Island Ballpark are $9. Students with identification and seniors (65 and over) can gain entry for $5, and children (3-12) for $3. Tickets are good for an all-day pass (three games, with two at the most on Saturday, May 12), and are available online here, or on game days at Banner Island Ballpark. The ballpark was built in 2005 with a capacity of 5,200. Details here.
New for the 2018 CCAA Championship, fans can watch the final three days only on Eleven Sports USA or online, free of charge, at baosn.tv. Check local listings for more information, and click here to read more about the partnership. For any potential meetings with Chico State, veteran play-by-play voice Michael Baca will be on hand for the third-seeded Wildcats' activity (audio here). All games in Stockton will 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 by following Triton Baseball at their own Twitter handle (@UCSDbsb). Fans are encouraged to also still follow @UCSDtritons.
CCAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
UC San Diego is making its 14th appearance at the CCAA Championship in its 18th season as a league member. The Tritons are record six-time champions, having most recently earned the banner at Banner Island Ballpark in 2014. They also won titles for four straight years from 2009-12, after an initial success in 2005. They have posted a record of 29-18 (.617) at the event. Wednesday's opponent, Cal State LA, is the 2013 winner, and is making a return trip after going 1-2 a year ago and getting eliminated by UC San Diego, 16-6. Cal State Monterey Bay (2-8, .200) has earned its fifth berth, the others coming in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Two-time defending champion Chico State is a five-time winner (2000, 2004, 2006, 2016 and 2017). One-time champion (2015) Cal Poly Pomona (14-11, .560) is making its seventh appearance, and like the Tritons, fifth in a row. Wednesday will mean a debut for SF State. The first of 19 previous editions of the event took place in 1999. This week will mark the eighth time the city of Stockton has hosted it, and fifth at Banner Island Ballpark. The 2010, 2011 and 2015 installments were at the University of the Pacific's Klein Family Field, with UC San Diego the champion in 2010 and 2011. The Tritons went 6-2 over those two title runs, and are 15-8 (.652) at the event in Stockton, including 8-4 at Banner Island Ballpark. Three of the six times that the Tritons qualified for a CCAA tourney in Stockton, they have returned to La Jolla with the banner.
UCSD AGAINST THE CCAA CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD
|1. CSUMB||3. CSUC||4. CPP||5. CSULA||6. SFSU|
|Series||(36-14, 30-14)||(30-20, 26-18)||(28-22, 25-19)||(27-22, 24-20)||(24-26, 23-21)|
FOURTH IN SECOND NCAA REGIONAL LISTING
The second release of the all-important NCAA regional rankings occurred on Wednesday, May 2, with UC San Diego down a spot from third to fourth in the West behind CCAA leader Cal State Monterey Bay, fourth-ranked Pacific West Conference (PacWest) leader Azusa Pacific, and city foe Point Loma. The Tritons flipped with Point Loma, a winner of 15 straight. They are ahead of California Baptist, Chico State, MSU Billings and Cal State LA. The third edition will come on Wednesday, May 9. The top six teams in the final version on May 13, make up the NCAA Division II Championship West Regional. The winner of the 2018 CCAA Championship, May 9-12, earns an automatic berth into the West Regional, as does the regular-season champion of the PacWest. APU (27-8) is mere percentage points ahead of Point Loma (28-9) after dropping a 12-5 home decision on Monday night to kick off those teams' critical four-game series. The 56-team field for the 2018 NCAA Division II Championship will be unveiled at 7 p.m. PT on Sunday, May 13, and streamed live on NCAA.com.
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). The Tritons were No. 4 and No. 19 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and Perfect Game preseason polls, respectively. They returned to the CBN poll on April 30, at No. 26, for the first time since March 19, and are No. 25 this week, with Cal State Monterey Bay the only other CCAA team appearing, at No. 16.
|Tritons in the Polls|
|Collegiate Baseball Newspaper||25||No. 7||N/A|
|NCBWA||RV||No. 4||No. 4|
|Perfect Game||NR||No. 19||N/A|
LAST TIME OUT
UC San Diego swept Cal State San Marcos to round out the regular season last week, outscoring the Cougars by the final count of 47-6. The Tritons routed their city rivals in San Marcos, 15-0 and 11-1 on Thursday and Friday, respectively. They then swept Saturday's Senior Day doubleheader in La Jolla, 12-3 and 9-2 in seven innings. UC San Diego produced 53 hits, nine of them home runs, including five in Thursday's opener.
CLARKE ACHIEVES CCAA TRIPLE CROWN FOR LEAGUE SEASON
First-year Triton rightfielder Zander Clarke completed his CCAA Triple Crown for the league season, as he led the league over the 44-game CCAA slate in hitting (.409), RBI (61) and home runs (13-tied). He had 11 more RBI than the next closest player, teammate Alex Eliopulos, and 16 more than the rest of the field, despite missing two games through injury. Clarke was the only CCAA player to bat .400 in league action. He is still also pursuing a CCAA Triple Crown for all games, as he leads in average (.390) and RBI (65), and his tied for third in home runs (13), three behind Cal State Dominguez Hills' Dalton Duarte, whose season is done. Clarke is first in the CCAA with his .676 slugging percentage as well.
Seven Tritons were recognized between games of last Satuday's Senior Day doubleheader in La Jolla, in Justin Beck, Mitch Hickey, Cameron Kurz, Jesse Moore, Michael Palos, Jack Rupe, Jr., and Tom Simpson.
UC San Diego swept its series in three out of the last four weeks of the regular season, around a split with Cal State LA. Those sweeps came back to back over Stanislaus State and Cal State San Bernardino, on the heels of its first series loss at rival Chico State, and then just this past week over city foe Cal State San Marcos. The Tritons had previously won three CCAA sets by 3-1 counts, and split the other three. That was after a three-game sweep and two-game split in non-conference action. They were thus 7-1-5 in sets in 2018.
SHAY SETTING THE TABLE
True freshman shortstop Shay Whitcomb's incredible 31-game reached-base streak to begin his college career, was snapped through an 0-for-4 performance in the series finale at Chico State on April 9. It was the sixth-longest such streak in UC San Diego's Division II era, since 2001. The Newbury Park native has missed a single contest and started the other 48 at shortstop, with 43 of those 48 in the leadoff position of the batting order. Whitcomb is sixth in the CCAA in on-base percentage (.460), third in walks (37), second in runs (52) and eighth in hits (64). In addition to that team-best reached-base streak, he currently also owns the team's first double-digit hit streak of 2018, at 14 games.
NAVIGATING THE BIG THREE
The Nos. 2-4 hitters in the Triton order, Tyler Durna, Zander Clarke and Alex Eliopulos, have been difficult, to say the least, for opponents to contend with. They are all batting .325 or better, led by Clarke at .390. They have combined for 32 of UC San Diego's league-best 63 home runs. Together with Shay Whitcomb, 192 of UCSD's 406 runs (.473), and 212 of 379 RBI (.559), have come from that formidable quartet. Durna is second in the league with his .485 on-base percentage.
In his six starts since returning to the starting rotation, fourth-year senior right-hander Jack Rupe, Jr. (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS), is 5-0 with a 3.79 ERA, 35.2 innings pitched and 39 strikeouts against just five walks (7.8 K/BB ratio). He has gone at least 5.0 frames in these last six outings, with a minimum of five strikeouts.
Fourth-year Triton right-hander Cameron Kurz struck out 10 consecutive batters over two outings, with all six in a two-inning stint at Cal State San Bernardino on April 21, and all four against Cal State LA on April 26 for a four-out save. It is likely a program record, though that mark has not been tracked over the years. At CSUSB, 19 of Kurz's 28 pitches went for strikes, and 14 of 21 against CSULA. He is 4-1 with eight saves and a 1.09 ERA over his 17 appearances and 24.2 innings. Kurz has fanned 40, against 10 walks, with opponents batting just .159. The eight saves are third in the CCAA and tied for 21st nationally. The San Diego product did not give up an earned run between March 4 and April 27, striking out 21 against a single walk over seven stints and 11.1 innings.
GRAND SLAM COUNTER: SEVEN
UC San Diego has remarkably blasted seven grand slams this season. The first two were by Alex Eliopulos, against then-fourth-ranked Colorado Mesa at home on Feb. 11, and at Sonoma State on March 9. Zander Clarke and Tyler Durna both got in on the act on March 29 at home against Cal State East Bay. Clarke added his second to break open the series opener at home with Cal State San Bernardino on April 19. Steven Schuknecht got one in the ninth inning of the 26-8 romp at CSUSB on April 21. Shay Whitcomb contributed the most recent one, in the fourth inning at Cal State San Marcos on May 3.
CLARKE'S POWER STROKE
Junior rightfielder Zander Clarke, a first-year transfer from UCLA, homered in each of the first three games of the Cal State Monterey Bay series, and added his first two-home-run game as a Triton, including a grand slam, in the opener against Cal State East Bay on March 29. Having tallied seven long balls in the month of March, he opened his April account with a three-run shot at Chico State on April 8. Clarke has 13 on the season, first on the team and tied for third in the CCAA. The Newbury Park native drove in nine runs against the Otters and seven versus the Pioneers. He is first in the CCAA with 65 RBI, just ahead of teammate Alex Eliopulos' 62, and is batting a league-best .390.
GREAT WEEK FOR BECK
Senior second baseman Justin Beck parlayed an outstanding series against Cal State San Bernardino, into his first CCAA Player of the Week award on April 24. The senior second baseman on April 23 was also one of seven standouts, the only one from the Division II ranks, named among the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Players of the Week. Beck hit .600 (9-15) with 10 runs, nine hits, three doubles, three home runs, 13 RBI and 21 total bases, all team highs. He slugged 1.400 with a .632 on-base percentage, and also fielded all 20 of his defensive chances cleanly. Beck scored three runs and drove in four, season bests, in each of the final three games of the series, with a double among multiple hits in each and three total home runs. He improved his season average by 42 points over that weekend, from .280 up to a season-best .322. Beck had reached base safely in 27 consecutive games before that streak was snapped on April 26. He is now batting .301.
UC San Diego's 26 runs at CSUSB on April 21 are second-most in the CCAA this season, only behind San Francisco State's 27-2 win at CSUSB on April 13. The Tritons also scored 25 at home against Cal State East Bay on March 29. Those two UCSD totals are tied for 14th and 26th nationally, respectively. The Tritons hit six home runs in both of those games, tied for 18th in the nation, tied for second in the West Region, and tied for first in the CCAA. UCSD's 17 walks in that same game against CSUSB are tied for third in the country and tied for first in the CCAA and West. Delta State and Colorado Christian are the only other teams in the country with two games of 25 or more runs scored.
DURNA LEADS SWEEP
On April 17, Tyler Durna was named the CCAA Player of the Week for the second time this year and fourth for his career, and later the NCBWA West Region Player of the Week for the first time. He hit a team-best .571 (8-for-14) with team highs of five runs (tied), eight hits (tied), four doubles, seven RBI, four walks, an .857 slugging percentage and .632 on-base percentage, in leading UC San Diego to its first sweep of the season, at home over Stanislaus State. Durna's one-out single ignited a two-run game-tying rally in the sixth inning on April 13. He bookended the weekend by reaching base in all five trips in Sunday's 9-4 win, going 4-for-4 with a walk, two doubles, two runs and three RBI.
EAST BAY OPENER SUPERLATIVES
UC San Diego's 25-2 victory over Cal State East Bay on March 29 marked the second-best run output of its NCAA Division II era, since 2001. The Tritons had won 26-5 in a seven-inning doubleheader nightcap at Cal State Monterey Bay on April 15, 2007, and have since posted a 26-8 decision at CSUSB on April 21. UC San Diego managed two grand slams, by Zander Clarke and Tyler Durna, and back-to-back-to-back shots, by Durna, Clarke and Alex Eliopulos, among six home runs, tying its D-II-era record from a 14-7 win at Cal State San Bernardino on April 2, 2010. Durna finished with career highs of five runs and eight RBI, which both equal D-II-era program standards. Justin Rahn had knocked in eight during a 20-5 home victory over Cal Poly Pomona in the NCAA West Regional on May 16, 2014. He also had a grand slam among two home runs that night.
FIRST WEEKLY HONORS FOR MOTT AFTER LIGHTS-OUT START
On March 6, 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 March 2, with a career-best 10 strikeouts. Mott scattered three singles and a walk. He had two perfect frames and also struck out the side twice. Mott had won three starts in a row prior to a no-decision at Sonoma State on March 9. He allowed just two runs over four outings from Feb. 17-March 9, in 24.0 innings for a 0.75 ERA. Mott is 7-1 over his 12 starts, with a season ERA of 2.97, and is tied for fifth in the CCAA with 73 strikeouts. Mott has improved on his single-game career best in strikeouts three times in 2018, and had at least five in each of his first seven appearances. That season total is against 20 walks, for a 3.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
BIG WEEK NETS ELIOPULOS SEVERAL AWARDS
For the week of Feb. 19-25, Alex Eliopulos was named among the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper 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, as well as a pair of grand slams. Eliopulos' 12 home runs, all to right field, are second on the team and fifth in the CCAA. His seventh-inning home run at CSUSM on May 3 was his first since March 29. Eliopulos is the only Triton to start or even appear in all 49 games in 2018.
TOP 50 IN NATIONAL STATISTICS
As of the NCAA Division II statistical report from May 6, Nick Kitzmann is tied for 16th with 18 hit-by-pitches. Cameron Kurz is tied for 21st with his eight saves. Tyler Durna is tied for 19th in base on balls (39), 18th in base on balls per game (0.89), 50th in runs (53), and 26th in runs per game (1.20). Zander Clarke is tied for 48th in hits (71), tied for 46th in home runs (13), tied for 11th in RBI (65), ninth in RBI per game (1.38), and tied for 43rd in total bases (123). Alex Eliopulos is tied for 16th in RBI (62), and 22nd in RBI per game (1.27). Shay Whitcomb is tied for 29th in base on balls (37) and 44th in base on balls per game (0.77). Brandon Stewart is tied for 49th in sacrifice bunts (eight). The Tritons as a team are 10th in fielding percentage (.973). They are third in base on balls (275), 50th in batting average (.309), 18th in scoring (8.3 runs per game), 14th in on-base percentage (.424), 32nd in ERA (4.01), 23rd in hit-by-pitches (74), 21st in hits (521), 32nd in hits allowed per nine innings (8.84), 22nd in home runs (63), 20th in home runs per game (1.29), 13th in runs (406), 19th in doubles (103), 32nd in doubles per game (2.10), 13th in double plays (44), 18th in double plays per game (0.90), 29th in slugging (.496), 46th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.36), 43rd in strikeouts per nine innings (8.9), 39th in WHIP (1.40), and 32nd in win-loss percentage (.694).
Tyler Durna leads the CCAA in base on balls (39), base on balls per game (0.89), runs (53) and runs per game (1.20). Zander Clarke leads in batting average (.390), RBI (65), RBI per game (1.38), slugging percentage (.676) and total bases (123). As a team, UC San Diego paces the conference in base on balls (275), fielding percentage (.973), hits allowed per nine innings (8.84), home runs (63), home runs per game (1.29), on-base percentage (.424), runs (406), scoring (8.3 runs per game), slugging percentage (.496), and strikeouts per nine innings (8.9).
UC San Diego used seven home runs in its four-game series with Cal State East Bay, including six in the opener, to move clear of Cal State Monterey Bay atop the league. Thanks also to 13 against Cal State San Bernardino and nine versus CSUSM, the Tritons now have 63, just nine away from tying the single-season program record of 72 from 2007. Seven of them have been grand slams. UC San Diego's league-best 53 long balls last season included 11 in a four-game series against CSUSB 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 straight games (May 4-18), with multiple blasts in eight of them, and 26 in all over the last 20 contests. The 53 were more than what UCSD managed in the previous three years combined (41).
DURNA NAMED CCAA PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Junior first baseman Tyler Durna was named the CCAA Player of the Week 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.
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 up to third in the CCAA with a 4.01 ERA.
UC San Diego continues a tradition of being strong defensively, first in the CCAA and West Region and 10th nationally 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.
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 consisted 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 traveled north for a four-gamer at two-time reigning CCAA tournament champion, 2017 CCAA regular-season champion and league favorite Chico State. 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 clinched a fifth successive trip.
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).
Nick Kitzmann has a team-best 18 hit-by-pitches (third 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 ... The Tritons' biggest frame this year has been eight runs, in the sixth inning of a 25-2 home romp over Cal State East Bay on March 29, and the fifth inning of a 26-8 decision at Cal State San Bernardino on April 21 ... The largest inning they have surrendered was a seven-run fifth at Cal State Monterey Bay on March 25 ... 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 this year had 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 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, have qualified for the 2018 CCAA Championship. The CCAA also went away from a 38-game league slate, with four-game sets within the division and three-gamers against the opposite division. Each team played a four-game series with the other 11 squads, for a 44-game schedule. UC San Diego was either entirely at home or away against the six northern teams, and faced 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.
UC San Diego returns two all-conference performers from 2017 at the corners in All-CCAA First Team first baseman Tyler Durna and third baseman 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. 27) 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. 24 prospect in the New York Mets organization, and in fact made his major-league debut in Cincinnati on May 7.
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. Junior left-hander Nick Senicka recovered from injury and took the mound for the first time as a Triton on May 5.
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 242-140 record (173-101 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 337-212 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 GOLDEN EAGLES
Fifth-seeded Cal State LA (27-22, 24-20 CCAA) is coming off a 3-1 series victory over Cal State San Bernardino last week. The Golden Eagles rallied after dropping the opener on the road, 12-8, and won the next three meetings, 18-10, 13-0, and 8-7 in seven innings. That final matchup saw CSULA score six in the sixth to overturn a 7-2 deficit. Cal State LA was once atop the CCAA, after it swept back-to-back league sets to move to 11-5 in the conference. The club is 11-11 away from home in 2018. CSULA went 35-22 overall in 2013 en route to the program's first conference tournament banner. Vince Beringhele is in his 11th season at the helm of the Golden Eagles.
UC San Diego leads the all-time series between these league rivals, 47-44. The sides split this year's regular-season series, splitting the first two games in La Jolla, as well as the April 28 doubleheader at Reeder Field. CSULA won three of five last year, taking the regular-season series, 3-1, before the Tritons earned a dominant 16-6 victory in a CCAA Championship elimination game in Stockton. The sides split their four meetings in each of the previous two years. The 2015 doubleheader in La Jolla was a split, UCSD taking game one, 7-4, and the Golden Eagles rallying from a 2-0 deficit going into their final at-bat and pulling out a 3-2 decision in eight in the nightcap. A win in that one would have given the Tritons a share of the CCAA regular-season crown. UCSD went 5-2 against the Golden Eagles in 2014, as Cal State LA took two of three in an early-season non-conference series. The teams split a doubleheader in La Jolla on Feb. 8, before the Golden Eagles held off a late charge by the Tritons to win 9-8 at home the next day. CSULA scored seven in the fourth and UCSD rallied with six in the eighth in that one. In early April, UCSD won 6-3 and 4-3 at home before sweeping a twin bill in Los Angeles, 13-2 and 2-0. UCSD won the 2013 regular-season series, 3-1, as the teams split a pair in Los Angeles before the Tritons swept a home doubleheader. The sides played to a 2-2 series split in 2012, each winning twice at home.
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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No matter the results in Stockton this week, UC San Diego will eagerly anticipate its standing for the 2018 NCAA Championship. The 56-team NCAA field will be unveiled on Sunday evening, May 13, live at 7 p.m. PT on NCAA.com. Triton Ballpark remains a potential venue for that event, which will run May 17-21.