Photo by: David Cohen/BHEphotos
Alex Athanacio greeted by third base coach Bryson LeBlanc after one of his two home runs Sunday in San Marcos.

No. 10 Tritons Power Walk Past Cal State San Marcos to Sweep Doubleheader, Second Straight Series

UC San Diego

SAN MARCOS, Calif. - The No. 10 University of California San Diego totaled 35 runs on 30 hits, nine of them home runs, and 26 walks, to loudly take both ends of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) doubleheader over city foe Cal State San Marcos at CSUSM Baseball Field on Sunday. Scores were 16-4 and 19-1 in seven.

Now a winner of a season-best 10 in a row, second-place UC San Diego is 17-4 overall and 12-4 in the CCAA. Cal State San Marcos has lost seven straight and 11 of 12, and is 11-15 overall and 7-13 in league play. The Tritons had taken the first two games of the series at home, 7-3 on Thursday night and 5-4 on Friday night. They have now swept back-to-back league sets, and won 12 in a row over the Cougars through four-game sweeps in three successive seasons.

UC San Diego matched its season high of 15 hits, with a season-high eight extra-base knocks, in each game Sunday. The Tritons reached double figures in walks for the first time in 2019 in the opener, with 17, their most since another road romp (26-8) at Cal State San Bernardino last April 21, 2018. They led Division II with 329 a season ago.

Sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb had a remarkable day, seemingly squeezing a stellar week into a single 16-inning afternoon of baseball. He finished 6-for-12 with one double, four home runs, six runs scored and 11 RBI. Whitcomb was 3-for-6 with two home runs and three runs in each game of the twin bill. With the performance, the Newbury Park native has six doubles and five home runs over his last six games.

UC San Diego is idle in the week ahead due to winter quarter final exams, which began Saturday. The Tritons host the red-hot, rival Chico State Wildcats for four, Friday through Sunday, March 29-31, at Triton Ballpark in La Jolla. Chico State (13-7, 9-6) has won nine straight after dropping its first six CCAA contests, and charged up the league standings from 12th to fourth place. Start time for the primetime opener under Friday night lights is 6 p.m. All four games can be viewed for free on UCSDtritons.tv.

Game One - No. 10 UCSD 16, CSUSM 4
UC San Diego got off to a fast start as Whitcomb took John Stevens' sixth pitch over the left field wall for his second home run of 2019. He was just getting warmed up.

That initial inning continued as Blake Baumgartner worked a one-out, eight-pitch walk, and fellow redshirt sophomore Aaron Kim, batting cleanup for the first time, took a 2-1 offering into the right field corner for his fourth double. Another Triton in great form, junior leftfielder Alex Athanacio, then picked a grand time for his first home run as a Triton, even despite falling behind 0-2 in the count, also pulling one over the wall in left for a quick 4-0 bulge.

With one gone in the second, Whitcomb, himself facing an 0-2 count, this time went to the opposite field over the right field wall for his second home run in as many frames. An Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/La Jolla HS) single into the right field corner ended Stevens' day early. After a four-pitch walk to Baumgartner, new pitcher Brandon Bachman dialed up a 5-4-3 double play to get his club into the dugout.

The home fourth began with back-to-back-to-back singles off Triton starter Noah Conlon for the Cougars' first run of the afternoon. The sophomore right-hander then walked Marcus Wilhite, and his first pitch after a mound visit was sent to left by Andrew Cowell for another RBI single. A sacrifice fly gave Conlon a first out, but still ended his day with Cabot Van Til, batting .440 to start the day, due up with the tying run at second base and only one away.

Junior right-hander Ted Stuka entered the fray, as he's been doing for Conlon, and got Van Til to pop out softly to Whitcomb with no advancement. Then Whitcomb nicely ranged all the way over into foul territory down the left field line for a second popout.

UC San Diego went right back to work, beginning the fifth with back-to-back walks to trigger a second Cougar pitching change. Freshman second baseman Ryan McNally greeted Tyler Venturelli with an RBI single up the middle as Athanacio came around from second. Steven Schuknecht then dropped down the sacrifice. After a walk and a second pitching change for the frame, Whitcomb nearly missed a grand slam and settled for a sacrifice fly deep to left. A popout ended the inning with the score 7-3.

The Tritons broke it open in the sixth as Athanacio belted his second three-run home run, again to left. Baumgartner and Kim each worked five-pitch walks for starters, and after a fourth pitching change, Athanacio took a first-pitch ball and then did his thing.

Incredibly, UC San Diego began the fifth, sixth and seventh innings with two walks around a wild pitch. The Tritons drew a leadoff walk in five of their nine turns, between the fourth and eighth. In the seventh it was Eliopulos and Baumgartner, with Athanacio providing the one-out RBI double down the left field line, and a bases-loaded passed wall accounting for the other tally.

The three-run eighth saw a one-out, three-run, opposite-field Baumgartner shot to right center. His fourth home run of 2019, and first since Feb. 16, was his third in that direction. It was also the Stevenson Ranch native's first away from home this year.

UC San Diego's final run in the ninth was an RBI single through the left side by Whitcomb, with one away and men at the corners, to score true freshman Michael Fuhrman, who had led off with a single.

Conlon went 3.1 innings and allowed three runs on six hits and one walk, striking out one. He allowed a leadoff single to Van Til after the big first, but stranded him at third after a trio of infield outs. Following a one-out infield error in the second, Conlon fired a 3-2 offering past a swinging Wilhite for his lone strikeout, with a fielder's choice putting up a second zero on the board.

Stuka (3-1) threw 4.2 innings and gave up one run on five hits and no walks. He fanned four. He turned in the game's only perfect frame by either side in the seventh, with two groundouts to Eliopulos around a called third strike.

Baumgartner was 1-for-2 with that home run, three runs and three RBI, matching his collegiate high with five walks. Athanacio wound up 3-for-4 with his two blasts, a walk, four runs and seven RBI. Eliopulos scored twice and walked three times. McNally went 2-for-2 with a double, three walks and an RBI. Kim tallied a pair of runs.

The Tritons finished the contest with four true freshmen on the field, all on the infield. Right-hander Michael Mitchell was one of them. He got his first batter swinging, but after a single, two-out hit-by-pitch and walk loaded the bases, needed a second swinging strikeout to shut the door.

Stevens (2-2) lasted just 1.1 frames and gave up five runs on six hits and one walk. The senior right-hander struck out two.

McNally made a great grab for the second out of the third, sprinting into the gap in right center and with his back turned and looking up into the sun, reaching up to snatch a ball that neither outfielder was going to get to.

Game Two - No. 10 UCSD 19, CSUSM 1 (7)
Cal State San Marcos took a quick 1-0 lead in the first through a leadoff double that Athanacio was narrowly unable to track against the wall in left center, a right-sided groundout to move the runner over, and a first-pitch sacrifice fly by Buck to center.

Kim just as quickly erased that, leading off the second with a shot to straightaway center, over 395 feet away. It was his team-best sixth.

UC San Diego ultimately scored 19 unanswered runs, with that second inning ballooning to a seven-run frame. The Tritons sent 10 men to the plate, with two home runs and a double among five hits. Schuknecht took a close 3-2 pitch for a walk to load the bags, and redshirt sophomore centerfielder Brandon Stewart, who just celebrated his birthday on Saturday, fouled off a 2-2 toss before sending a two-run single to left. Whitcomb then doubled down the right field line to drive in a pair, and Baumgartner capped the rally with a two-out, two-run shot to left for his second of the twin bill.

Stewart, Whitcomb and Baumgartner's hits, all knocking in a pair, each came with two strikes on them.

Cougar starter Mason Corneliussen had set the Tritons down in order for the first time all day in the first. Baumgartner did not take kindly to the junior right-hander staring him down after an inning-ending strikeout, and let his teammates know upon his return to the dugout, that he was not amused, wanted another meeting, and would hit one out. Baumgartner indeed got his chance at redemption, and didn't miss what turned out to be Corneliussen's final pitch.

Another five runs in the third later, it was another rout. UC San Diego added three in the fifth and four in the seventh.

Whitcomb's grand slam in the third was the main highlight out of all of that, and he added a third and final solo shot to his unbelievable day with one out in the fifth. Eliopulos followed with an opposite-field single to left, Baumgartner smoked an RBI triple into the gap in left center, and McNally took a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk. It was Baumgartner's first collegiate triple.

McNally, who had the other RBI aside from the Whitcomb slam in the third, via sacrifice fly, produced a two-run single in the seventh, giving him a career-best four runs batted in. R.J. Prince's double to left had plated the frame's first run, with fellow senior outfielder Christopher Schasteen's sacrifice fly finally capping the scoring.

Junior right-hander Brandon Weed (4-0) gave up one run on two hits and no walks over 5.0 innings, striking out three. He retired 10 straight between the double by his first batter, and a one-out infield single in the fourth, a scalded shot that Baumgartner barely couldn't corral. Other than that, he was perfect in the second, third and fifth, needing only 11 pitches in the first two of those innings.

Freshman left-hander Lonnie Morris handled the rest, striking out a career-best four over his two frames, with just a two-out walk in the eighth and leadoff single in the ninth against him. He registered three swinging strikeouts around that base on balls.

Whitcomb was 3-for-6 with the double, two home runs, three runs and career-best seven RBI, giving the Tritons two seven-RBI performers on the afternoon, with eight the single-game program record, at least for the Division II era, since 2001. Baumgartner went 2-for-4 with his triple, home run, two runs and three RBI. Prince was a perfect 3-for-3 and reached base all five times with a double, walk, hit-by-pitch, career-high-tying three runs and one RBI. Athanacio had three walks and three runs.

Corneliussen (0-2) allowed the first seven runs on five hits and two walks in 1.2 frames, striking out two. Van Til had his 24-game reached-base streak snapped.

Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 16-3, and has won 12 straight meetings since the start of the 2017 season, including six in a row in San Marcos ... The Tritons outscored the Cougars 47-6 last year, and 47-12 this week ... The two results in San Marcos last year were 15-0 and 11-1, both nine-inning affairs, with seven home runs ... Alex Eliopulos started his 96th and 97th straight games, all at third base ... Alex Athanacio started in left field for the second and third straight games in the continued injury absence of Keenan Brigman ... Nick Kitzmann was also unavailable due to injury, for the fifth and sixth straight games ... Shay Whitcomb's home runs in the two contests gave the sophomore at least one in all four of his games to date at CSUSM Baseball Field, with six there in all ... Game One: Aaron Kim hit in the cleanup spot for the first time as a college player, with Athanacio up to the fifth position for the first time, and Steven Schuknecht hitting eighth for the first time in 2019 ... Noah Conlon earned his fourth start as he continues his return from an injury that cut his 2018 season short ... Blake Baumgartner's five walks in his first five plate appearances increased his team-leading season total to 26, which now paces the CCAA by one ... Michael Fuhrman entered at catcher for the first time in his college career to begin the eighth, with Arjun Nichani coming in at second base for the first time in the same frame, and a third true freshman, Blake FitzGerald, taking over at first for the first time collegiately to start the ninth ... For FitzGerald, that defensive entry came after his first collegiate hit, a pinch-hit single in the ninth ... Former four-year Triton right-hander and San Marcos product (Mission Hills HS) Jack Rupe, Jr. (2015-18), recently engaged to be married, was on hand with his family ... Game Two: UC San Diego used the exact same batting lineup as in the first game ... Brandon Weed made his seventh appearance and drew his third start as a Triton on the mound.

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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For complete coverage and information regarding UC San Diego Athletics, follow the Tritons online at UCSDtritons.com and through social media on Twitter (@UCSDtritons), Instagram (@ucsdtritons) and Facebook (UCSDtritons). For more information on UC San Diego Baseball, follow on Twitter (@UCSDbsb) and Instagram (@ucsd_baseball). Head coach Eric Newman is also on Twitter (@CoachEricNewman).

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