STOCKTON, Calif. - Camille Gaito
tossed seven scoreless innings and Caitlin Brown
executed a perfect squeeze bunt in the top of the sixth inning to lift fourth-seeded UC San Diego over top-seed Cal State Dominguez Hills, 1-0, in the opening game of the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship Tournament on Friday afternoon at Arnaiz Stadium in Stockton.
The Tritons improve to 33-18 overall and advance to face No. 3 seed Chico State in the winner's bracket on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. The Wildcats defeated second-seeded Cal State Monterey Bay, 6-3, in the second game of the day on Friday.
Cal State Dominguez Hills falls to 41-12 and will take on CSUMB in a loser's bracket matchup at 4:30 Saturday.
"I thought the team competed very well today," head coach Patti Gerckens said. "They played hard, executed when they needed to and we got a great effort from Camille. When she pitches like she did today, we're going to have a great chance to win."
Gaito, who led the Tritons to the NCAA Championship as a junior in 2011, was the story once again on Friday, out-dueling CSUDH starter Stephanie Jimenez in the circle. The San Rafael native limited the Toros to just three hits on the way to her 11th complete game shutout of the season.
Gaito retired 21 of the 27 batters she faced, striking out three and walking one in what proved to be another dominant performance from the All-American hurler. The senior right-hander is now 21-8 on the season.
After stranding three runners in the first five innings, UCSD finally broke through in the sixth. Senior centerfielder Kris Lesovsky singled up the middle to lead off the inning. She stole second and then advanced to third on a productive groundout from sophomore left fielder Kirsten Willmon.
The next batter was Brown, who laid down a perfectly placed bunt, allowing Lesovsky to come home for what proved to be the game-winning run. Brown was safe on the play, adding insult to injury for the Toros.
The run would be all that Gaito needed as she pitched her way out of trouble in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings. Khryssi Steele doubled to lead off the last of the sixth and then advanced to third on a sacrifice by Veronica Vasquez, but Gaito got the next two Toro hitters to ground out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, CSUDH had runners on first and second with one out after a walk and a hit batter, but the Toros' Stephanie Hua grounded out to third and Alyssa Cruz struck out looking to end the game.
Jimenez (22-4) suffered just her fourth loss of the season, scattering six hits over seven complete innings. She struck out six and didn't walk a batter.
Steele had two of Dominguez' three hits offensively, while UCSD's six hits came from six different players.
UCSD has now won six of its last seven games against Cal State Dominguez Hills, including two games at the CCAA Tournament in 2011.
The Tritons dropped three out of four with Chico State during the regular season in February in La Jolla.