Fit to Lead: No. 8 Tritons #BeatChico, #WinTheSeries, Take Over First Place in CCAA Table Behind Weed Gem
LA JOLLA, Calif. - The eighth-ranked University of California San Diego needed just two hits to post a six-run second inning and got a top performance on the mound from junior newcomer Brandon Weed to pull away from Chico State at Triton Ballpark Sunday, 11-2, and procure the series victory over its bitter rival.
The result got UC San Diego to 20 wins, now at 20-5 overall and 15-5 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). Combined with San Francisco State's 14-3 loss at Cal State LA, the Tritons take over sole possession of first place in the conference standings, by half a game over the Gators. They are now 17-3 at home in 2019.
Chico State fell back to 15-11 overall and 11-10 in the CCAA, after the weekend had started so promisingly for the visiting Wildcats. They took Friday night's opener, 3-0, and were up 4-0 through the first six innings of Saturday's first game of the doubleheader, before UC San Diego stormed back to sweep the twin bill, 7-5 and 5-0. With Sunday's triumph, the Tritons returned the favor from a year ago, when they dropped the regular-season series by that same tally in Chico. In fact, UC San Diego has not lost another set since, and have gone 43-9 following their departure.
Weed, a Lemon Grove product (Grossmont HS) and first-year Triton out of Southwestern College, fired a season-long 7.0 solid innings, allowing two runs in the first frame before posting six straight zeroes. He gave up eight hits and did not walk a batter for the seventh time in his eight appearances, striking out a pair, both looking. Unofficially, he threw a first-pitch ball to a remarkable four of 30 batters faced. Among his 81 pitches, 64 were strikes. Weed has just three walks in 32.0 innings pitched.
Like it did to turn its fortunes around on Saturday, UC San Diego victimized poor location by the 'Cats' staff, accepting four walks and a hit-by-pitch in that big second to account for needing a solitary two hits to generate those six runs. Ten Tritons came to the plate. They loaded the bases on three walks ahead of a first pitching change for the day. A hit-by-pitch to junior Alex Athanacio put the home side on the board, and then redshirt sophomore Blake Baumgartner dropped a first-pitch base hit in front of diving leftfielder Turner Olson that the sophomore simply misjudged, as it skipped through him and all the way to the wall for a devastating three-run double.
UC San Diego added two more in the frame. Alex Eliopulos walked, and Aaron Kim roped an opposite-field double to right that scored both Baumgartner and Eliopulos behind him as Chico State communicated poorly on the relay back from the outfield.
A three-run third saw Brandon Stewart line his fifth double into the left field corner on a 2-2 pitch with one gone. He stole third base easily with pitcher Gilbert Romero not paying attention to him, and trotted home when with two away, Athanacio rolled an RBI single up the middle that Wildcat shortstop JT Navarro dove for and contacted, but could only knock into center field. Baumgartner then singled, and Athanacio came around to score from second on new pitcher Connor Sealey’s awry pickoff throw to first. Eliopulos promptly stroked an RBI single into right to pick up Baumgartner.
The hosts capped the scoring in the eighth on sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb's second double of the afternoon, an opposite-field knock into the gap in right center on a 2-2 pitch with two outs. That came after a one-out, pinch-hit walk by redshirt freshman Logan White, Jr., in just his second collegiate plate appearance, and a two-out infield single by Stewart. White's run was the first of his career.
Whitcomb's first double and subsequent Triton activity in the opening frame were signs of things to come. UC San Diego loaded the bases on starter Wyatt Boyce (0-1) as the junior right-hander went to three-ball counts to each of the first five hitters, on the double, Baumgartner's one-out walk, and Kim's two-out hit-by-pitch. Boyce got out of it through a fielder's choice grounder, but was not able to dodge the second.
Weed really settled in after surrendering a single to lead off the game, followed by a one-out RBI triple and RBI double, on successive pitches. A foulout and comebacker stranded that second Wildcat at second. Weed then produced a perfect third and fourth, and set down nine in a row from the second to the fifth. Chico State loaded the bases thanks to some Triton misfortune with a pair of infield singles around their lone error over the four games, in the sixth. A fielder's choice groundout ended that threat and kept a 9-2 lead intact. Weed worked around a two-out single in the seventh.
Redshirt junior right-hander Blaine Jarvis worked around a leadoff single in the eighth, and freshman left-hander Lonnie Morris got through a scoreless ninth despite hitting a pair of Wildcat hitters.
Whitcomb finished 3-for-5 with the two doubles, a walk, run scored and two RBI. Baumgartner was 2-for-4 with his double, a walk, two runs and three RBI. Eliopulos, Kim, Stewart and senior R.J. Prince added two hits apiece, with Athanacio and Kim driving in two runs each, and Athanacio and Stewart scoring a pair.
UC San Diego fielded .993 for the series with one error over 145 chances. Whitcomb ranged all the way over to the other side of the second-base bag to corral a ground ball and register the first out in the second. Eliopulos dove toward the hole from his third base position in the fourth, got up and fired to Baumgartner for the initial out.
UC San Diego now faces a season-long six-game road stretch, having managed just five road contests thus far, with another five being lost to adverse weather. The Tritons will bus to Turlock for a four-game CCAA series at Stanislaus State that begins in primetime on Friday, April 5, at 6 p.m., weather permitting.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 48-42, including 36-24 over the last 60 meetings, 37-34 in CCAA regular-season contests and 24-18 in La Jolla ... Alex Eliopulos started his 101st straight game, all at third base ... Brandon Weed drew his fourth mound start of 2019, making his eighth appearance as a Triton ... UC San Diego pitching combined for eight walks and two hit-by-pitches for 10 free bases in the series, as compared to 25 (21 and four) by the Chico State staff ... The Tritons outscored the 'Cats 23-3 over the final 19 innings of the series ... Shay Whitcomb completed an incredible month of March batting over .400 at .404 (21-52), with 15 runs, 21 hits, eight doubles, six home run, 19 RBI, 47 total bases, two steals and a .904 slugging percentage, all team highs ... Whitcomb's second double of the game gave the Tritons a season-best six, their most since hitting eight against CSUSB on April 20, 2018 ... Whitcomb now has four two-double games for his college career, and three this year, all coming over the last eight contests ... Nick Kitzmann's fourth-inning double was his first of the year ... Brandon Stewart's second-inning sacrifice hit and third-inning steal gave him team-leading totals of four and three, respectively.
T6: B Weed pumps the fist! ‘Cats load bases on two infield singles around #Tritons’ first error of weekend. After mound visit, fielder’s choice groundout keeps this 9-2 advantage intact.#GoTritons 🔱 #BeatChico #WinTheSeries #CCAAbsb pic.twitter.com/BOSaVzoiUl— UC San Diego Baseball (@UCSDbsb) March 31, 2019
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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