No. 14 Tritons Hold Off Sonoma State, 7-3, to Clinch CCAA Series Victory
LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 14 University of California San Diego baseball team did just enough in all facets of the game to get past Sonoma State University, 7-3, and clinch its first California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series win of the 2019 season at Triton Ballpark on Saturday night.
A fifth straight victory moves UC San Diego to 12-4 overall and 7-4 in the CCAA. Sonoma State falls to 4-7 overall and 3-5 in league play. The Tritons had swept Friday's doubleheader in the weather-altered set, by final scores of 14-4 and 1-0 in 10 innings.
Junior right-hander Ted Stuka (2-1) earned the winning decision in long relief of sophomore right-hander Noah Conlon for the second straight Saturday. He went 5.0 innings and gave up a lone run on five singles and three walks, striking out seven.
Conlon, still gradually working his way back from injury to pitch deeper and deeper into games, allowed his first run on four hits and a walk in 2.2 frames, fanning two.
Redshirt sophomore catcher Aaron Kim continued his torrid stretch, knotting the score at 1-1 by blasting a solo home run over the left field wall with one gone in the second. It was his team-best fourth long ball of the season, all coming over the last eight days in home wins, and third of the weekend series with the Seawolves.
Redshirt junior leftfielder Keenan Brigman followed two pitches later with an opposite-field drive which went for a triple when Seawolf rightfielder Ricky Pato slipped and fell on the slick surface. On the very next offering of starter Josh Cashman, junior rightfielder Alex Athanacio lined out to left for a sacrifice fly and 2-1 edge.
Sonoma State had scored in the top half through a single, double and wild pitch, all with two gone. Conlon got himself in a jam right away in the first with back-to-back singles for openers, but for the second straight game, wriggled out of first-inning trouble, getting successive swinging strikeouts and a flyout.
UC San Diego made the night much more comfortable for itself with a four-spot in the fourth, taking advantage of a pair of Sonoma State errors for three unearned tallies. Steven Schuknecht and Kim each drew walks to lead off. Brigman got the bunt down, but first baseman Kory Brown wasn’t able to squeeze Cashman's toss, with the bases full on after that miscue. Athanacio's team-best third sacrifice fly of 2019 and second of the night went to left center for 3-1. With two away, true freshman second baseman Ryan McNally went opposite field to right center with a two-run single. The second error put Tritons at the corners, and a second passed ball in the frame made it 6-1.
UC San Diego managed one more run in the seventh, as Blake Baumgartner fouled off two 1-2 offerings before pushing an opposite-field single through the right side with one gone. Senior pinch-hitter R.J. Prince then took a 3-1 toss to center for another single and men at the corners. Kim's RBI fielder's choice groundout made it 7-1.
Sonoma State scored a single run in each of the final two frames, putting the tying on in the on-deck circle in both, before UC San Diego finally closed it out. Two of the Seawolves' three runs on the night ultimately came home on wild pitches. The eighth- and ninth-inning tallies, just like in the second inning, came entirely through two-out rallies, the one in the eighth after Stuka got successive swinging strikeouts, no less.
Redshirt junior right-hander Blaine Jarvis took over for Stuka with that run in and the bags full. He went 2-0 to Drew Downing before getting a fielder's choice groundout.
Jarvis himself ran into some issues in the ninth after two quick groundouts to Shay Whitcomb at shortstop. A walk, single and wild pitch made it 7-3. Another walk saw two Seawolves on the bases, with senior right-hander Jonah Dipoto came on and got a called third strike on the inside corner on Joshua Medina for his first save of 2019.
Stuka used a 4-3 double play to McNally behind the bag to navigate around the fourth with a leadoff single and one-out walk. Eliopulos scooped up a tough grounder toward the line and got up and threw across the diamond for the second out in the second.
Kim finished 1-for-3 with the home run, a walk, two runs and two RBI. McNally was 2-for-4 with a run and two RBI. Brigman went 1-for-2 with a triple, hit-by-pitch, sacrifice and two runs. Athanacio had two RBI and Whitcomb two hits and a steal.
UC San Diego will go for the series sweep over Sonoma State on Sunday, March 3. First pitch at Triton Ballpark on East Campus in La Jolla is now at 12 p.m. Parking is free, with general admission $5. UC San Diego students can attend for free. The broadcast on UCSDtritons.tv will also be free of charge.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 44-33, and has won six of seven over the last two years ... Alex Eliopulos started his 92nd straight game, all at third base ... Noah Conlon earned his fourth collegiate mound start and third this year ... Aaron Kim now has a single-season high of four home runs, and six for his career, with five at Triton Ballpark ... Kim has eight RBI in this series, having totaled that amount as a redshirt freshman in 2018 ... Keenan Brigman's second-inning triple was his team-best second of the year and eighth of his career ... Shay Whitcomb's eighth-inning steal was his first of 2019 and third as a Triton ... Jonah Dipoto's fourth career save was his first since April 15, 2017 ... UC San Diego improved to 11-2 at home.
About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.
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