UC San Diego Baseball Awards Recap: Zander Clarke Honored as Unanimous All-American
LA JOLLA, Calif. - Six University of California San Diego baseball student-athletes picked up All-West Region honors over the course of the Tritons' lengthy 2018 postseason run, with redshirt junior rightfielder Zander Clarke earning unanimous All-America distinction through all three award outlets for the NCAA Division II.
Clarke, a product of Newbury Park (Newbury Park HS) and first-year transfer from UCLA, was named a first-team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and the Division 2 Conference Commissioners Association (D2CCA). The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) placed him on its 14-player All-America Second Team as one of three outfielders.
The ABCA/Rawlings All-America First Team was made up of 16 players, with Clarke among four outfielders, as the only California product and lone West Region representative. Eight standouts on the first, second and third teams, including Clarke, of the 50 total selections, competed at the NCAA Championship in Cary, N.C. The D2CCA All-America First Team featured Clarke as one of three outfielders and 16 student-athletes in all.
Clarke was one of four West Region players to make the NCBWA All-America Second Team, alongside Stanislaus State ace Joe Ryan, MSU Billings third baseman Kaleo Johnson and California Baptist two-way standout Andrew Bash. Clarke was the CCAA Most Valuable Player, with Ryan voted the CCAA Most Valuable Pitcher.
On the regional level, Clarke was the ABCA/Rawlings West Position Player of the Year, and joined on the 16-player ABCA/Rawlings All-West Region First Team by junior first baseman Tyler Durna. Senior second baseman Justin Beck, redshirt junior third baseman Alex Eliopulos, junior pitcher Preston Mott and senior closer Cameron Kurz were put on the 16-player second team.
Beck, Clarke and Durna were all on the 16-player D2CCA All-West Region First Team, with Eliopulos, Kurz and Mott gaining selection to the 16-player second team. The NCBWA All-West Region teams had previously been publicized, with Clarke the Tritons' lone first-team representative and Durna, Eliopulos and Mott on the second.
Clarke topped the CCAA in batting average (.385), home runs (18-tied), RBI (86) and slugging (.690). He achieved the CCAA Triple Crown for the full schedule, as well as just for the 44-game league slate, leading in average (.409), home runs (13-tied) and RBI (61) despite missing two contests. His RBI, home runs and hits (87) are first, second and fifth, respectively, on the program's single-season charts.
Beck (Upland/Upland HS) hit .308 with 47 runs, 14 doubles, nine home runs, 41 RBI and 39 walks over his 57 games, 53 of them starts at second base, where he fielded at a stellar .983 clip with only four errors over 236 chances. He had one reached-base streak of 27 games, and ended the campaign with another one of 18 games.
Durna (Chino Hills/Ruben S. Ayala HS) paced the CCAA in runs (68), doubles (18) and walks (45-tied), and was fourth in on-base percentage (.469). He batted .333, second on the Tritons after Clarke, with two triples and seven home runs. Durna's run and walk totals rank sixth and fourth, respectively, in Triton history.
Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) was second in the CCAA in RBI (72) behind Clarke, and also wound up second on the team and fifth in the league with his 14 home runs. The second-year Triton batted .312 with 11 doubles, 49 runs and 40 walks, and was the only UC San Diego player to appear in all 60 contests, starting every one.
Kurz (Encinitas/La Costa Canyon HS) had an incredible season with nine saves to go along with a 5-1 record and miniscule 0.74 ERA. Over his 22 appearances, all in relief, and 36.1 innings of work, he fanned 63 and walked just 11. Opponents were able to muster only a .135 batting average, with no home runs and four runs total.
Mott (Clovis/Clovis HS) went 8-2 with a 3.25 ERA and 88 strikeouts against 30 walks over his 15 appearances, all starts. He led the team in wins, ERA, starts and strikeouts. Mott has now reached double-figure starts in all three of his seasons, and earned eight winning decisions with a sub-4.00 ERA in back-to-back years.
Clarke is the first Triton to earn ABCA, D2CCA and NCBWA All-America recognitions since 2015, when ace right-handed starting pitcher and current professional Justin Donatella was likewise tabbed a unanimous All-American.
Of the six Tritons, Durna is the only one with previous regional or national honors, having been a unanimous All-West Region pick as a sophomore in 2017.
Clarke, Eliopulos and Mott were not selected in the 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft earlier this month, and are expected to return for head coach Eric Newman's eighth year in charge of the Tritons in 2019. Durna and Kurz were chosen in the 15th and 18th rounds, respectively. Both have one year left of college eligibility, and face a July 6 deadline to either sign a first pro contract, or use that final year. Beck, a one-year transfer from San José State, has exhausted his eligibility.