STOCKTON, Calif. - Caitlin Brown
hit a walk off single in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift fourth-seeded UC San Diego to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over No. 3 seed Chico State on day two of the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Arnaiz Stadium in Stockton.
The Tritons erased a late 2-0 deficit with two runs in the sixth and then scored the winning run in the seventh to punch their ticket to the CCAA Tournament Championship game for the second consecutive season. UCSD (34-18) will face whichever team emerges from the rest of Saturday's action on Sunday at noon with the tournament championship on the line.
Chico State (35-15) will face either Cal State Dominguez Hills or Cal State Monterey Bay in an elimination game on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. The Toros and Otters were set to square off in a loser's bracket matchup at 4:30 p.m.
Brown, who drove in the decisive run with a perfect squeeze bunt in the sixth inning of UCSD's 1-0 win over top-seed CSUDH on Friday, came through in the clutch once again on Saturday, ripping a 2-0 offering from Wildcat reliever Kayla McConnell up the middle to bring home Monique Portugal and cap off the Triton comeback.
Sophomore catcher Charly Swanberg hit a two-run single that tied the game in the sixth, while ace Camille Gaito earned her second win in as many days in the circle.
"That was a complete team effort today," head coach Patti Gerckens said. "We never stopped fighting and we were able to come through with a few huge plays down the stretch. Charly's hit was huge, Caitlin's hit was huge and Camille gave us another great effort. I thought that was our best win of the season, hands down."
The victory didn't come easy as Chico State starter Sam Baker limited UCSD to just two hits through the first five innings of play. She retired the Tritons in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings and looked to be in great shape with a two-run cushion from the second inning on.
UCSD finally broke through in the sixth though as Kris Lesovsky and Kirsten Willmon hit back-to-back singles to lead off the inning and Brown followed with a walk to load the bases. The next batter was Swanberg, who roped a single to right field to plate two runs and chase Baker with the game tied at two.
McConnell came in and restored order for the Wildcats, retiring the next three Tritons to end the inning.
Undaunted, Chico State threatened to reclaim the lead in the top of the seventh, but Gaito brilliantly pitched her way out of a bases-loaded, one out jam to keep the game knotted at two.
Portugal singled to center to lead off the bottom of the frame and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Emily McQuaid. After Lesovsky was robbed of a hit by the CSUC right fielder, Willmon keep the inning going with a two out single, setting the stage for Brown's heroics. The Ranchos Palos Verde native followed with a single that bounced right over second base and into center field, bringing home Portugal for the game-winning run.
Gaito improved to 22-8 on the season with the win, allowing two runs on nine hits, while striking out three and walking one. She tossed her second consecutive complete game after becoming UCSD's all-time career leader in the category on Friday. The San Rafael native has gone the distance a total of 86 times in her four-year career.
McConnell (6-5) took the loss for the Wildcats, allowing one run on three hits in an inning and two-thirds. Baker surrendered two runs on five hits in five innings of work.
UCSD defeated Cal State Dominguez Hills 6-2 to advance to the CCAA Tournament Championship game last season, but lost a 1-0 decision at the hands of Sonoma State.