at No. 15 Cal Poly Pomona (10-0, 4-0 CCAA)
Thursday, Feb. 20 • 2 p.m.
Scolinos Field • Pomona
Live Audio • Live Stats
Friday, Feb. 21 • 2 p.m.
Scolinos Field • Pomona
Live Audio • Live Stats
The UC San Diego baseball team continues California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) play with another tough foe in undefeated and red-hot Cal Poly Pomona this week. Coming off of a home split against 2013 West Region runner-up and then-12th-ranked league favorite Chico State, the Tritons will take on the Broncos in a split-venue series. The teams will play two single games at Scolinos Field in Pomona, each starting at 2 p.m., on Thursday, Feb. 20, and Friday, Feb. 21. They will then head down to La Jolla for a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 22, also beginning at 2 p.m. The nightcap of Saturday's twin bill will be a shortened seven-inning affair per the CCAA format again this year, with approximately a 30-minute break in between games.
General admission tickets to all regular-season home games at Triton Ballpark are $5, and are available for purchase beginning one hour prior to start time. All UCSD students are admitted FREE with valid identification. Parking on the UCSD campus is free on weekends, but a permit is required and strongly recommended for weeknight contests. They can be purchased at the machine near the entrance to the Triton Ballpark parking lot.
All UCSD home games at Triton Ballpark feature a live online video stream and live stats. Weeknight CCAA contests will additionally have audio commentary, provided again by former Triton pitcher Tim Strombel (2007-08). The audio/video is free, but does require registration and a login. This week, the first two games of the series with Cal Poly Pomona, in Pomona, will have live audio online through Ustream. Some road contests will also have video. Fans can access all live coverage for home and away dates from the Schedule/Results page. Finally, starting lineups, live between-inning updates and other in-game news and notes can be found during home contests and some road games by following Triton Baseball all season long on the UCSD Athletics Twitter handle (@UCSDtritons).
THE CANNED FOOD DRIVE IS ON
The CCAA is holding its annual canned food drive competition during the month of February, and all league schools are collecting canned goods to donate to local service organizations. UCSD is once again participating on behalf of the San Diego Food Bank. Donation bins are currently located in the lobby of the Intercollegiate Athletics suite on the top floor of RIMAC through Feb. 24. In addition, bins will be present at the following home events:
• Friday, Feb. 21 - women's/men's basketball vs. San Francisco State
• Saturday, Feb. 22 - baseball vs. Cal Poly Pomona
• Saturday, Feb. 22 - softball vs. Cal State East Bay
• Saturday, Feb. 22 - women's/men's basketball vs. Sonoma State
ABOUT THE BRONCOS
No. 15 Cal Poly Pomona (10-0, 4-0 CCAA) is in first place in the CCAA. The Broncos are 8-0 at home as they conclude a season-long 10-game homestand Friday against the Tritons. Of CPP's 10 victories so far, seven have been by one-run margins, with four of the walk-off variety, and five in which it was either down or tied entering the eighth inning. Pomona's last seven wins have come in home series sweeps over two West Region opponents who were both ranked in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper preseason poll in Dixie State (No. 34) and defending CCAA regular-season champion Cal State Monterey Bay (No. 18). A year ago, the Broncos lost five of seven after a perfect 8-0 start. Trevor Magno (.382) is tops among four regulars hitting better than .300. Senior leftfielder David Armendariz, a Division I transfer from Cal Poly with just this 2014 season of eligibility remaining in Pomona, has league bests of two home runs, 10 runs scored and 10 RBI to go along with four steals on four attempts while batting at a .293 clip. The Broncos are hitting .299 as a team, with a 2.97 ERA as a staff. Sophomore left-handed ace Max Bethell and reliever RJ Shanks are each 3-0, while junior right-hander J.J. Franklin has a CCAA-best four saves in the early going. Randy Betten is in his fourth season in charge at Cal Poly Pomona.
UCSD leads the all-time series between these teams, 34-22, and holds a 16-8 advantage over the last 24 meetings since 2009. The teams have split their four-game sets in each of the past two years, with both sides 2-2 at home and 2-2 on the road. Cal Poly Pomona ended the Tritons' 2011 campaign at the NCAA West Regional held in La Jolla.
LAST TIME OUT
UCSD split its four-game regular-season series with rival Chico State for the third year in a row, to open its 40-game league slate last weekend in La Jolla. The Tritons produced bookend victories of 8-1 on Friday night and 7-3 on Sunday around a doubleheader sweep by the Wildcats Saturday, 7-2 and 3-1.
NICK LA FACE...TRIPLES HITTER?
Nick La Face leads the CCAA...in triples. Entering last weekend with one career triple, the fifth-year senior belted a pair against Chico State. La Face hit the ball hard all weekend long to the tune of a .375 average (6-for-16) in the four-game home split with the rival 'Cats. He slugged .875 with the two triples, a double, and his first home run of 2014 among his six base hits, while driving in four runs. La Face had a two-run triple and scored off of Wildcat ace Nick Baker during a decisive six-run third for the Tritons in Friday night's 8-1 victory. He later added a double. In game one of Saturday's doubleheader, La Face's first-pitch single in the third marked UCSD’s first hit of the afternoon. He wound up 2-for-4 with a hit-by-pitch. A leadoff home run in the seventh inning of the nightcap pulled UCSD to within 3-1, but that's how it would end. Finally in Sunday's 7-3 triumph, La Face again put UCSD on the board with a two-out RBI triple on a 2-2 pitch in the first. He was 1-for-4 with the triple, another hit-by-pitch, run scored and RBI.
Triton sophomore Troy Cruz has been a jack of all trades once again through the first three weeks of the 2014 season. The 2013 All-CCAA First Team selection at utility, he started each of the first eight games at either third base (five) or designated hitter (three) and batted at the very top of the UCSD order. He made two relief appearances on the mound. Then this past Sunday, Feb. 16, Cruz drew his first mound start of the season and matched his career-long effort of 7.0 innings (6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) to earn the win and the series split for UCSD.
DONNY STRONG IN CCAA DEBUT START
Justin Donatella (1-1) allowed a single hit over six shutout innings in last Friday night's 8-1 victory against 12th-ranked preseason league favorite Chico State in the 2014 CCAA opener for both rivals. It was the longest outing of his career to date, marking his second start of the young season and first of his career in a conference contest. The sophomore walked two and struck out a career-high six. In the process, Donatella outdueled Chico State ace and then-reigning CCAA Pitcher of the Week Nick Baker. He retired 10 batters in a row following a fielder’s choice groundout to end the second, setting the ‘Cats down in order in the third, fourth and fifth prior to a one-out walk in the sixth. The win was Donatella's second as a college pitcher and first as a starter. The Saugus native only faced one tough situation, which he expertly got out of, in the very first frame. Chico State had runners at second and third with one gone following a one-out walk and a double. Donatella got a strikeout and a groundout as both ‘Cats were stranded. Donatella was the individual story of the exhibition season. The big 6-foot-6 right-hander who saw just 13.2 innings of work as a freshman in 2013 (11.20 ERA), wrapped up his preseason with nine complete frames over two starts with six hits allowed, all singles, no walks, and 14 strikeouts.
LEAGUE LEADERS IN GETTING PLUNKED
Through nine games, UCSD players have been hit a league-leading 25 times by opposing pitchers. The next closest is Cal State Monterey Bay with 19. Ten different Tritons have been hit at least once, led by junior first baseman Michael Mann with five. Troy Cruz and Justin Rahn have taken their base four times each. Mann, in fact, is second in the conference, only to Cal Poly Pomona's Bo Walter with six.
UCSD produced a resounding doubleheader sweep at home over Holy Names University on Opening Day on Feb. 2. Scores were 11-1 and 9-0 as the Tritons came up with 22 hits while allowing just nine. Every player who started one or both games, had at least one hit and one run on the afternoon. Senior leftfielder Justin Rahn led the way with a .444 average (4-for-9) and five RBI. Starting pitchers Blake Fassler and Dan Kolodin each tossed five strong innings in earning the winning decisions. Also of note in his collegiate debut was redshirt freshman outfielder Brandon Shirley lacing a 2-2 pitch down the left field line for a double in the eighth inning of game one to punctuate the first at-bat of his Triton career.
WEEKLY AWARD FOR RAHN
Justin Rahn's stellar Opening Day netted him the season's first CCAA Baseball Player of the Week award on Feb. 3. It was the first of his career. Rahn put UCSD on the scoreboard in both victories over Holy Names, clearing the bases with a three-run double to left in the first inning of game one and adding the first home run by a Triton in 2014, a two-run shot to center, in the second inning of the nightcap.
RARE TO SEE FREE PASS FROM FASS
Senior right-hander Blake Fassler rarely walks opposing batters. The Rocklin native and transfer from Diablo Valley College tossed five innings in his 2014 debut vs. Holy Names (2/2), striking out six without a walk in earning the win. In 2013, Fassler made nine starts among 17 appearances in all. After joining the starting rotation on March 2, he produced a season-best streak of 21.1 consecutive innings without issuing a base on balls before it was snapped in his final frame on March 29. Fassler walked nine in 64.2 innings, against 50 strikeouts, for a stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.56. Fassler only for the first time as a starter for UCSD against Cal State L.A. (2/8), allowed more than one walk, issuing two. He then issued three walks, his most as a Triton, vs. Chico State (2/15). Fassler had given up zero or one walk in his first 10 starts in a UCSD uniform. He has gone at least 5.0 innings in 11 of his 12 starting assignments as a Triton.
UCSD appeared in the No. 39 position in the preseason edition of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's NCAA Division II top-40 poll, released back on Dec. 24. The Tritons did not make it onto any of the other three preseason national rankings in Division II college baseball, and dropped out of the CBN poll when the first in-season installment was unveiled on Monday. UCSD moved up from No. 10 (preseason) to No. 7 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) West Region listing. This week's opponent, Cal Poly Pomona, is No. 15 in the CBN poll, as high as No. 3 in the NCBWA national poll, and No. 1 in the West. The Broncos are also rated No. 23 nationally by College Baseball Lineup (Feb. 9).
PLENTY OF TALENT BACK
UCSD's 37-player 2014 roster features 18 letterwinners, two returning redshirts and 17 newcomers. The Tritons bring back six of nine position starters, as well as three of four starting pitchers from a year ago. Troy Cruz was the 2013 CCAA Freshman of the Year and an All-CCAA First Team honoree after a standout rookie campaign as a multiple threat on the mound, in the field and at the plate. The senior tandem of fifth-year catcher Nick La Face and fourth-year left-sided infielder Garrett Tuck were both All-West Region selections in 2012, and are each former All-CCAA First Team picks in their own right, with Tuck in 2012 and La Face in 2011. Tuck earned that distinction at shortstop, and looks to be back at that position after spending 2013 at third base. Spencer Frazier and Justin Rahn are two more senior veterans who garnered All-CCAA honorable mention in 2012. On the mound, right-handers Cruz, Blake Fassler and Dan Kolodin reprise their roles in the rotation. Senior right-hander Scott Zeman and junior left-hander Chad Rieser are again available out of the bullpen.
NEWS ON NEWCOMERS
There are 17 players new to the Triton roster. Junior transfers Erik Lewis and Michael Mann are everyday starters at second and first base, respectively. Lewis spent the 2013 season at Fullerton College after beginning his college career at Division I Big West Conference power Long Beach State. He is currently first in the CCAA in walks (10) and sixth in on-base percentage (.513). Mann is from Diablo Valley College. Lewis (.308) and Mann (.303) are each hitting better than 300. Tyler Howsley and Christian Leung are two true freshmen who earned their collegiate debuts on Feb. 2. Howsley has seen time at shortstop, while Leung has been the regular starter in right field. Two new arms to see the mound this season have been Eric Moersen, a sophomore left-handed specialist who transferred from the University of Utah, and junior right-hander Dean Friedberg. Moersen has needed 12 pitches to retire the only three batters he has faced, two on strikes. Eight newcomers are slated to redshirt.
UCSD is 2-1 in season openers under Eric Newman and 11-3 since moving to Division II status for 2001 ... UCSD is 2-1 in CCAA openers with Newman in charge, with back-to-back wins after a 4-1 loss to Chico State in La Jolla on Feb. 17, 2012 ... The Tritons are an even 7-7 in CCAA openers all-time (since 2001), and 7-1 with six splits in sets to begin the league season ... Having earned the series split with Sunday's 7-3 win, UCSD still has not lost its regular-season four-game series with Chico State since 2007, when it dropped three of four in Chico ... Troy Cruz was named on Jan. 29 to the utility position on the 15-player NCBWA Preseason All-West Region First Team ... UCSD was picked to place sixth in the 2014 CCAA regular-season race by the league's 11 head coaches, also as announced on Jan. 29, with 2013 West Region runner-up Chico State favored for the third time in as many years to finish first, and reigning CCAA regular-season champion Cal State Monterey Bay projected for second ... All but two players on the 37-man 2014 roster, junior pitcher Alon Leichman (Kibbutz Gezer, Israel) and redshirt outfielder Tim White (Stratford, CT), are California natives ... Besides Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS), the four remaining San Diego products are fellow sophomore Adrian Orozco (Chula Vista/Otay Ranch HS), redshirt freshman Austin Hensley (San Diego/Valhalla HS) and redshirts Steven Coe (Valley Center/Valley Center HS) and Gabe Simpson (Encinitas/Cathedral Catholic HS).
UCSD's 2014 schedule consists of 50 regular-season games, including 26 at home within the friendly confines of Triton Ballpark. The Tritons have the luxury of facing the two projected favorites in the CCAA, Chico State and Cal State Monterey Bay, a combined eight times in La Jolla. UCSD will play 20 of its first 25 at home, but close with 19 of 25 on the road. For the second year in a row, the CCAA Championship will be held at Stockton's neutral-site Banner Island Ballpark, home of the Stockton Ports, the Class A Advanced affiliate of Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics. The four-team tournament takes place May 8-11, with UCSD a five-time champion (2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012).
HEAD COACH ERIC NEWMAN
Eric Newman is in his third season as the UCSD head coach. The 2012 CCAA Coach of the Year has a 64-52 record (48-36 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 159-124 overall in his five 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. He previously spent three years at the helm of Dallas Baptist University from 2004-07.
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Following this week's activity, UCSD welcomes Sonoma State to La Jolla for another big four-game conference series, with the opener set for primetime on Friday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m.