No. 26 Tritons Go After CCAA Title in Regular-Season Finale Against City Rival CSUSM; Senior Day Saturday
The University of California San Diego baseball program rounds out the 2018 regular season with the third of three straight split-venue California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) sets, this week against crosstown foe Cal State San Marcos. The second-place Tritons (30-15, 26-14 CCAA) remain just one game back of 15th-ranked league leader Cal State Monterey Bay (33-13, 27-13 CCAA). They begin their series with the Cougars (20-26, 15-25 CCAA) with a pair of afternoon contests at CSUSM Baseball Field in San Marcos, on Thursday, May 3, and Friday, May 4, both at 3 p.m. The set then shifts south to La Jolla and Triton Ballpark on East Campus for its conclusion on Saturday, May 5. The first game of the Senior Day doubleheader will start at 12 p.m. The nightcap will be a shortened seven innings, with about a 40-minute gap in between contests, when seven outstanding Triton seniors will be recognized.
Each of the top six teams in the CCAA standings played to series splits last weekend. The Tritons thus also still hold a two-game cushion on third-place Chico State. They clinched a fifth straight trip to the CCAA Championship with Saturday's victory at Cal State LA, and are assured a top-four seed in the six-team, double-elimination tournament, for which they will head to Stockton on Tuesday, May 8. CSUMB also faces a split-venue series this Thursday through Saturday, against Cal State East Bay, which is in a two-way tie for seventh, just one game back of a CCAA tourney spot. That series will have single matchups on Thursday (3 p.m.) and Saturday (12 p.m.) in Hayward, with a doubleheader in Seaside on Friday at noon. The Tritons are 18-6 at home and 12-9 on the road in 2018.
ADMISSION POLICIES FOR TRITON BALLPARK
General admission tickets to all regular-season home dates at Triton Ballpark are $5, whether a single game or doubleheader. UC San Diego students are admitted FREE with valid identification. Dogs and other pets are not allowed, nor are coolers. Bullseye Kettle Corn is on site for all home contests, with the menu featuring hot dogs, nachos, and of course, kettle corn, among other snacks, as well as both cold and hot beverages, like coffee, tea and hot chocolate.
Parking on the UCSD campus is free on weekends, but a permit is required for weeknight contests. They can be purchased at the machine near the entrance to the Triton Ballpark parking lot. Please be aware of the danger of foul balls to your vehicle when parking. Overflow parking is available adjacent to the aquatics facility (across freeway bridge), or in the opposite direction, further down Voigt Drive and well beyond the right field wall and trolley construction site.
A majority of UC San Diego home games at Triton Ballpark feature live online video on UCSDtritons.tv. All broadcasts are in high definition, and can be viewed from smartphones and tablets. Viewing is subscription-based, though it is free from UCSD campus IP addresses. The single-day fee is $5.99 (24-hour window), meaning doubleheaders are two-for-one. The play-by-play commentary is again provided by local radio personality Ted Mendenhall (@TedMendenhall). Events are archived. Some road contests also have video and/or audio. This week, all four games will have video. All games have live stats. Fans can access live coverage from the Schedule/Results page, or by clicking on the links above. Starting lineups, live between-inning updates and other in-game news and notes can be found this year primarily by following Triton Baseball all season long at their own Twitter handle (@UCSDbsb), with Instagram stories at @ucsd_baseball. Fans are encouraged to also still follow @UCSDtritons. Finally, check out the CCAA live scoreboard here to keep up on results around the league.
FOURTH IN SECOND NCAA REGIONAL LISTING
The second release of the all-important NCAA regional rankings occurred on Wednesday, May 2, with UC San Diego down a spot from third to fourth in the West behind CCAA leader Cal State Monterey Bay, fourth-ranked Pacific West Conference (PacWest) leader Azusa Pacific, and city foe Point Loma. The Tritons flipped with Point Loma, a winner of 14 straight. They are ahead of California Baptist, Chico State, MSU Billings and Cal State LA. The third edition will come on Wednesday, May 9. The top six teams in the final version on May 13, make up the NCAA Division II Championship West Regional. The winner of the 2018 CCAA Championship, May 9-12, earns an automatic berth into the West Regional, as does the regular-season champion of the PacWest. APU (27-7) has a one-game edge in that race over Point Loma (27-9), with the sides squaring off in Azusa, May 7-9. The 56-team field for the 2018 NCAA Division II Championship will be unveiled at 7 p.m. PT on Sunday, May 13, and streamed live on NCAA.com.
On Nov. 27, UC San Diego was officially invited to become a member of the NCAA Division I Big West Conference. The Tritons will begin a four-year reclassification period starting in the fall of 2020. They will play a full Big West schedule that season and will be eligible for the NCAA Championship in men's volleyball, men's and women's water polo, and fencing. For the 2024-25 academic year, all sports will be eligible to compete in Big West and NCAA Division I championships. Read the full press release here.
UC San Diego was at No. 7 in the preseason edition of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's NCAA Division II top-40 poll (Dec. 20). The Tritons were No. 4 and No. 19 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and Perfect Game preseason polls, respectively. They are back in the CBN poll, at No. 26, for the first time since March 19.
|Tritons in the Polls|
|Collegiate Baseball Newspaper||26||No. 7||N/A|
|Perfect Game||NR||No. 19||N/A|
LAST TIME OUT
UC San Diego split its series with Cal State LA last weekend. The Tritons took the opener on Thursday night, 6-3, rallying from a 2-0 first-inning deficit. Cameron Kurz struck out all four batters he faced for his eighth save in fellow senior Mitch Hickey's winning start. The Golden Eagles returned the favor, however, on Friday night, coming back from 5-2 down following Shay Whitcomb's three-run blast in the fourth, to win 6-5 in La Jolla. The teams then also split Saturday's doubleheader in Los Angeles, UC San Diego first rolling to an 11-4 victory behind home runs from Nick Kitzmann and Justin Beck. The Tritons surrendered a four-run sixth to drop the seven-inning finale, 7-5.
CLARKE CHASING TRIPLE CROWN
First-year Triton rightfielder Zander Clarke is making a bid for the CCAA triple crown, as he is currently fifth with a .373 batting average (leader is at .389), tied for first with teammate Alex Eliopulos with 55 RBI apiece, and tied for fourth with 11 home runs, three behind Cal State Dominguez Hills' Dalton Duarte. Clarke is second in the CCAA with his .633 slugging percentage.
UC San Diego split last week after posting back-to-back four-game sweeps, over Stanislaus State and Cal State San Bernardino, on the heels of its first series loss at rival Chico State. The Tritons had previously won three CCAA sets by 3-1 counts, and split the other three. That was after a three-game sweep and two-game split in non-conference action. They are thus 6-1-5 in sets in 2018.
SHAY SETTING THE TABLE
True freshman shortstop Shay Whitcomb's incredible 31-game reached-base streak to begin his college career, was snapped through an 0-for-4 performance in the series finale at Chico State on April 9. It was the sixth-longest such streak in UC San Diego's Division II era, since 2001. The Newbury Park native has missed a single contest and started the other 44 at shortstop, with 43 of those 44 in the leadoff position of the batting order. Whitcomb is fifth in the CCAA in on-base percentage (.461), tied for first in walks (35) and tied for second in runs (47). He currently owns the team's first double-digit hit streak of 2018, at 10 games.
NAVIGATING THE BIG THREE
The Nos. 2-4 hitters in the Triton order, Tyler Durna, Zander Clarke and Alex Eliopulos, have been difficult, to say the least, for opponents to contend with. They are all batting .316 or better, led by Clarke at .373. They have combined for 28 of UC San Diego's league-best 54 home runs. Together with leadoff man Shay Whitcomb, 166 of UCSD's 359 runs (.462), and 182 of 333 RBI (.547), have come from that formidable quartet. Durna is second in the league with his .478 on-base percentage.
In his five starts since returning to the starting rotation, fourth-year senior right-hander Jack Rupe, Jr. (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS), is 4-0 with a 3.60 ERA, 30.0 innings pitched and 33 strikeouts against just four walks (8.25 K/BB ratio). He has gone at least 5.0 frames in these last five outings, with a minimum of five strikeouts.
Fourth-year Triton right-hander Cameron Kurz struck out 10 consecutive batters over two outings, with all six in a two-inning stint at Cal State San Bernardino on April 21, and all four against Cal State LA on April 26 for a four-out save. It is likely a program record, though that mark has not been tracked over the years. At CSUSB, 19 of Kurz's 28 pitches went for strikes, and 14 of 21 against CSULA. He is 3-1 with eight saves and a 1.21 ERA over his 16 appearances, tied for the team lead, and 22.1 innings. Kurz has fanned 36, against eight walks, with opponents batting just .154. The eight saves are third in the CCAA and tied for 18th nationally. The San Diego product did not give up an earned run between March 4 and April 27, striking out 21 against a single walk over seven stints and 11.1 innings since.
UC San Diego has remarkably blasted six grand slams this season. The first two were by Alex Eliopulos, against then-fourth-ranked Colorado Mesa at home on Feb. 11, and at Sonoma State on March 9. Zander Clarke and Tyler Durna both got in on the act on March 29 at home against Cal State East Bay. Clarke added his second to break open the series opener at home with Cal State San Bernardino last Thursday, April 19. Steven Schuknecht produced the most recent slam, in the ninth inning of the 26-8 romp at CSUSB on April 21.
CLARKE HAS FOUND POWER STROKE
Junior rightfielder Zander Clarke, a first-year transfer from UCLA, homered in each of the first three games of the Cal State Monterey Bay series, and added his first two-home-run game as a Triton, including a grand slam, in the opener against Cal State East Bay on March 29. Having tallied seven long balls in the month of March, he opened his April account with a three-run shot at Chico State on April 8. Clarke has 11 on the season, first on the team and tied for fourth in the CCAA. The Newbury Park native drove in nine runs against the Otters and seven versus the Pioneers. He is tied for first in the CCAA, with teammate Alex Eliopulos, at 55 RBI apiece, and is batting a team-best .373.
GREAT WEEK FOR BECK
Senior second baseman Justin Beck parlayed an outstanding series against Cal State San Bernardino, into his first CCAA Player of the Week award on April 24. The senior second baseman on April 23 was also one of seven standouts, the only one from the Division II ranks, named among the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Players of the Week. Beck hit .600 (9-15) with 10 runs, nine hits, three doubles, three home runs, 13 RBI and 21 total bases, all team highs. He slugged 1.400 with a .632 on-base percentage, and also fielded all 20 of his defensive chances cleanly. Beck scored three runs and drove in four, season bests, in each of the final three games of the series, with a double among multiple hits in each and three total home runs. He improved his season average by 42 points over that weekend, from .280 up to a season-best .322. Beck had reached base safely in 27 consecutive games before that streak was snapped on April 26. He is now batting .305.
UC San Diego's 26 runs at CSUSB on April 21 are second-most in the CCAA this season, only behind San Francisco State's 27-2 win at CSUSB on April 13. The Tritons also scored 25 at home against Cal State East Bay on March 29. Those two UCSD totals are tied for 13th and 25th nationally, respectively. The Tritons hit six home runs in both of those games, tied for 17th in the nation, tied for second in the West Region, and tops in the CCAA. UCSD's 17 walks in that same game against CSUSB are tied for third in the country and tied for first in the CCAA and West. Delta State is the only other team in the country with two games of 25 or more runs scored.
DURNA LEADS SWEEP
On April 17, Tyler Durna was named the CCAA Player of the Week for the second time this year and fourth for his career, and later the NCBWA West Region Player of the Week for the first time. He hit a team-best .571 (8-for-14) with team highs of five runs (tied), eight hits (tied), four doubles, seven RBI, four walks, an .857 slugging percentage and .632 on-base percentage, in leading UC San Diego to its first sweep of the season, at home over Stanislaus State. Durna's one-out single ignited a two-run game-tying rally in the sixth inning on April 13. He bookended the weekend by reaching base in all five trips in Sunday's 9-4 win, going 4-for-4 with a walk, two doubles, two runs and three RBI.
EAST BAY OPENER SUPERLATIVES
UC San Diego's 25-2 victory over Cal State East Bay on March 29 marked the second-best run output of its NCAA Division II era, since 2001. The Tritons had won 26-5 in a seven-inning doubleheader nightcap at Cal State Monterey Bay on April 15, 2007, and have since posted a 26-8 decision at CSUSB on April 21. UC San Diego managed two grand slams, by Zander Clarke and Tyler Durna, and back-to-back-to-back shots, by Durna, Clarke and Alex Eliopulos, among six home runs, tying its D-II-era record from a 14-7 win at Cal State San Bernardino on April 2, 2010. Durna finished with career highs of five runs and eight RBI, which both equal D-II-era program standards. Justin Rahn had knocked in eight during a 20-5 home victory over Cal Poly Pomona in the NCAA West Regional on May 16, 2014. He also had a grand slam among two home runs that night.
FIRST WEEKLY HONORS FOR MOTT AFTER LIGHTS-OUT START
On March 6, junior left-hander Preston Mott was selected the CCAA and NCBWA West Region Pitcher of the Week, both for the first time in his career. The awards came thanks to seven shutout innings against then-14th-ranked Cal Poly Pomona in a 6-4 home victory on March 2, with a career-best 10 strikeouts. Mott scattered three singles and a walk. He had two perfect frames and also struck out the side twice. Mott had won three starts in a row prior to a no-decision at Sonoma State on March 9. He allowed just two runs over four outings from Feb. 17-March 9, in 24.0 innings for a 0.75 ERA. Mott is 6-1 over his 11 starts, with a season ERA of 3.25, and is seventh in the CCAA with 68 strikeouts. Mott has improved on his single-game career best in strikeouts three times in 2018, and had at least five in each of his first seven appearances. That season total is against 16 walks, for a 4.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
BIG WEEK NETS ELIOPULOS SEVERAL AWARDS
For the week of Feb. 19-25, Alex Eliopulos was named among the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Players of the Week, with the other 11 all being from Division I, as well as the CCAA Player of the Week for the first time, and then NCBWA West Region Player of the Week. That all came after a Cal State Dominguez Hills series in which he hit .600 (9-15) and slugged 1.467, with a .714 on-base percentage, four home runs, one double, six runs, eight RBI and six walks. The La Jolla native produced back-to-back two-home-run games at home on Feb. 23 and in Carson to begin the Feb. 24 doubleheader, and in fact has three of them on the season, as well as a pair of grand slams. Eliopulos' 10 home runs, all to right field, are second on the team and sixth in the CCAA. He is the only Triton to start or even appear in all 45 games in 2018.
TOP 50 IN NATIONAL STATISTICS
As of the NCAA Division II statistical report from May 1, Nick Kitzmann is tied for 12th with 18 hit-by-pitches. Cameron Kurz is tied for 18th with his eight saves. Tyler Durna is tied for 41st in base on balls (34), 23rd in base on balls per game (0.85), and 45th in runs per game (1.18). Zander Clarke is tied for 31st in RBI (55) and 21st in RBI per game (1.28). Alex Eliopulos is tied for 31st in RBI (55), 30th in RBI per game (1.22), and 58th in toughest to strike out (12.4). Shay Whitcomb is tied for 29th in base on balls (35) and 42nd in base on balls per game (0.80). The Tritons as a team are fourth in fielding percentage (.976). They are seventh in base on balls (252), 23rd in scoring (8.0 runs per game), 13th in on-base percentage (.420), 47th in ERA (4.27), 32nd in hit-by-pitches (66), 39th in hits (468), 34th in home runs (54), 32nd in home runs per game (1.20), 28th in runs (359), 43rd in doubles (91), 48th in doubles per game (2.02), 36th in double plays (37), 35th in double plays per game (0.82), 38th in slugging (.484), 47th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.31), 50th in strikeouts per nine innings (8.8), 48th in WHIP (1.43), and 43rd in win-loss percentage (.667).
Tyler Durna leads the CCAA in base on balls per game (0.85) and runs per game (1.18). Zander Clarke and Alex Eliopulos lead in RBI (55), with Clarke also first in RBI per game (1.28). Shay Whitcomb paces the CCAA with 35 walks. As a team, UC San Diego paces the conference in base on balls (252), fielding percentage (.976), home runs (54), home runs per game (1.20), on-base percentage (.420), runs (359), scoring (8.0 runs per game), slugging percentage (.484), and strikeouts per nine innings (8.8).
UC San Diego used seven home runs in its four-game series with Cal State East Bay, including six in the opener, to move clear of Cal State Monterey Bay atop the league. Thanks also to 13 against Cal State San Bernardino, the Tritons now have 54, surpassing their CCAA-leading 53 from a year ago. Six of them have been grand slams. UC San Diego's 53 long balls last season included 11 in a four-game series against CSUSB to wrap up the regular season, and 11 more in six contests at the CCAA Championship. The Tritons topped the league thanks to a late-season outburst that saw them hit at least one long ball in a Division II-era (since 2001) program-record 11 consecutive games (May 4-18), with multiple blasts in eight of them, and 26 in all over the last 20 contests. It was the most home runs by a UCSD squad since the Tritons had 60 in 2010. The 53 were more than what UCSD managed in the previous three years combined (41). This year's 54 now make up the fourth-largest single-season total in the program's D-II history.
DURNA NAMED CCAA PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Junior first baseman Tyler Durna was named the CCAA Player of the Week on Feb. 13. Durna hit .524 (11-21) and slugged .810 (2B, 3B, HR, 17 TB) with a .615 on-base percentage, all team bests, producing 11 hits, seven runs and 10 RBI. He walked five times without a single strikeout, and handled all 39 defensive chances cleanly. Durna reached base at least twice in each game.
The UC San Diego pitching staff finished with a 3.67 ERA a season ago, 24th in the nation, fourth in the West Region and third in the CCAA. The Tritons have thus placed among the top three in the CCAA in ERA in five of the past six years. The UCSD staff in fact threw the most total innings in all of Division II in 2017, at 557.1, with fellow national semifinalist St. Thomas Aquinas closest at 530.1. The Tritons are currently fourth in the CCAA with a 4.27 ERA.
UC San Diego continues a tradition of being strong defensively, first in the CCAA and West Region and fourth nationally with a .976 fielding percentage. The Tritons fielded at a .974 clip in 2017, ninth nationally and second in both the West and CCAA behind Division II-leading Chico State's .983. UCSD had finished at .970 for two straight years in 2015 and 2016, topping the CCAA and ranking 20th in Division II in the latter. The Tritons were second in the CCAA, behind only Cal Poly Pomona (.971), and 21st in Division II, in 2015. UCSD has been in the top 30 nationally and top three in the conference in fielding for each of the past eight seasons. The Tritons were also second in the CCAA (behind Chico State) in 2014 with a .974 clip, and fifth in the country. In 2013, they were second in the league behind Chico State and 11th nationally (.972). They were 29th in Division II in 2012 (.966) and third in the conference. UCSD led the nation with a Division II- and school-record mark of .984 (1611-673-38) in 2010 and was fifth in 2011 (.972), pacing the CCAA both years. Only one program in the country has even fielded at a .980 rate since 2010, and that was Chico State a year ago, falling just short of the Tritons' D-II standard.
UC San Diego wound up second in the CCAA South in 2017 behind Cal Poly Pomona (27-11) for the second year in a row, with a league record of 24-13, qualifying for a fourth consecutive CCAA Championship. That's when the Tritons caught fire, winning three straight elimination games at the CCAA Championship in Stockton before dropping a winner-take-all final to rival Chico State, and then sweeping through the NCAA West Regional with two victories each against higher seeds Dixie State and host Azusa Pacific. In its first return to the NCAA Championship since 2010, UC San Diego dropped a heartbreaker in its opener, only to take four more elimination games within a five-day span, and make it to the final round. Needing to beat West Chester of Pennsylvania twice on that final day of the season on June 4, the Tritons fell by a score of 5-2 in the initial meeting. Their final overall record stood at 44-19, marking the second-most wins in program history.
Last year, the Tritons were NCAA Division II West Region champions for the first time under head coach Eric Newman and third since moving up to Division II for the 2001 season. They were previously crowned in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010, finishing as national runners-up in the latter season, as well as in 2017. UC San Diego also won a pair of West titles in Division III, in 1987 and 1994.
UC San Diego head coach Eric Newman, the 2017 American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Diamond NCAA Division II West Region Coach of the Year, has 19 returners and 16 newcomers to form a 35-player roster for 2018, after last season's edition posted a 44-19 overall record and secured the program's first regional crown since 2010. It marked UCSD's second-best win total all-time, as Newman's club went 12-4 in postseason play, including 7-2 in elimination games.
The Tritons are led by junior first baseman Tyler Durna, who produced the opposite of a sophomore slump and took a star turn a year ago, with his team-best .363 batting average, dazzling defense, a memorable 28-game hitting streak, and a stretch of 41 straight contests in which he reached base safely. Redshirt junior Alex Eliopulos, a La Jolla native (La Jolla HS) and second-year transfer from San Diego Mesa College, should be across the diamond from Durna again at third base. Jack Rupe, Jr. (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS), is a fourth-year senior right-hander, and Preston Mott a junior left-hander who was the Opening Day mound starter in 2017.
Among the prized incoming contingent are a pair of notable transfers from Pac-12 Conference powerhouses in redshirt junior power-hitting outfielder Zander Clarke from UCLA and senior right-handed starting pitcher Mitch Hickey out of Oregon State. Clarke, who bats from the right side, slammed 15 total home runs over an incredible summer as the Great West League (GWL) Player of the Year with the Portland Pickles, adding a second straight GWL All-Star Game appearance and in fact, GWL All-Star Game Most Valuable Player distinction as well. All of that netted the Newbury Park native an outfield spot on the 2017 Perfect Game/Rawlings Summer Collegiate All-America First Team. Hickey was one of 13 arms who saw action for Oregon State during a historic 2017 campaign that finished at 56-6 at the College World Series. That staff completed the year with a 1.93 team ERA. Hickey, a product of Morgan Hill in Northern California, compiled a 4.91 ERA over seven relief appearances, with one save.
Not to be outshone is an exciting crop of true freshmen, highlighted by the likes of right-handers Noah Conlon and Cameron Leonard, and shortstop Shay Whitcomb. In late September, Whitcomb and Conlon made Perfect Game's Top NCAA Division II Freshmen list at No. 7 and No. 8, respectively, among 34 total prospects recognized. UC San Diego was one of four programs with multiple freshmen honored, but the lone one from the West Region, and the only one nationally with two in the top 10.
UC San Diego's 2018 schedule consists of 49 regular-season games, including 26 at home. Having contested four of just five non-conference dates in La Jolla, including two top-10 matchups with No. 4 Colorado Mesa, the Tritons dove right into league play with a four-game home split against San Francisco State, Feb. 16-18. UCSD also split a four-game set with then-14th-ranked 2015 and 2016 West Region champion Cal Poly Pomona, March 1-4. The Tritons traveled north for a four-gamer at two-time reigning CCAA tournament champion, 2017 CCAA regular-season champion and league favorite Chico State. The CCAA Championship will be held in the neutral-site city of Stockton for the sixth year in a row, returning to Banner Island Ballpark of the minor-league Stockton Ports, May 9-12. UCSD has clinched a fifth successive trip.
DURNA LOCKED IN
Tyler Durna finished fifth in the league with his team-best .363 batting average as a sophomore a year ago. He started each of the last 54 games at first base, reached safely in all but one, and had a hit in all but eight of them, including a 28-game streak from March 4-April 29 that was a record for UCSD's Division II era (since 2001), and likely a program standard. It is tied for the third-longest hit streak in the CCAA's unofficial record book. Durna had multiple hits in 16 of those 28 contests. He was fourth in the CCAA in on-base percentage (.469).
Nick Kitzmann has a team-best 18 hit-by-pitches (second in CCAA), after six all of last year, and on Feb. 11 against Concordia Irvine became the first Triton to be hit by a pitch three times in the same game, since Nick La Face at Cal State LA on April 1, 2011 ... The 18 runners the Tritons stranded in their CCAA opener with SF State on Feb. 16 were their most since leaving 19 at Chico State over a decade ago on May 14, 2005, in a 12-inning, 7-6 triumph for the program's first CCAA tournament title ... UCSD's first 10 home runs of 2018 were all to right field ... The Tritons' biggest frame this year has been eight runs, in the sixth inning of a 25-2 home romp over Cal State East Bay on March 29, and the fifth inning of a 26-8 decision at Cal State San Bernardino on April 21 ... The largest inning they have surrendered was a seven-run fifth at Cal State Monterey Bay on March 25 ... UCSD is 6-1 in season openers under Eric Newman and 15-3 since moving to Division II status for 2001 ... UCSD is 5-2 in CCAA openers with Newman in charge, having this year had its five-game win streak snapped by SF State, 4-1, since another 4-1 loss to Chico State in La Jolla on Feb. 17, 2012 ... The Tritons are 10-8 in CCAA openers all-time (since 2001), and 10-1 with seven splits in sets to begin the league season ... UCSD was picked to place second in the 2018 CCAA race by the league's head coaches, as announced on Jan. 29, with defending CCAA regular-season and tournament champion Chico State the favorite for the sixth time in seven years.
The CCAA baseball landscape has changed again, and after having two six-team divisions, North and South, the past two seasons, there are no divisions in 2018. The top six teams, by straight winning percentage, in the final standings, will qualify for the 2018 CCAA Championship. Third-year member and city rival Cal State San Marcos is eligible for the postseason for the first time. The CCAA has also gone away from a 38-game league slate, with four-game sets within the division and three-gamers against the opposite division. Each team now plays a four-game series with the other 11 squads, for a 44-game schedule. UC San Diego is either entirely at home or away against the six northern teams, and faces split-venue sets with the southern ones. The automatic qualifier into the NCAA West Regional is still the winner of the CCAA tournament, which remains a four-day, double-elimination event.
UC San Diego returns two all-conference performers from 2017 at the corners in All-CCAA First Team first baseman Tyler Durna and third baseman Alex Eliopulos, who earned honorable mention ... Durna was also a unanimous All-West Region selection by ABCA/Rawlings (First Team), the NCBWA (First) and D2CCA (Second) ... Eliopulos represented the Tritons on the NCBWA's preseason All-West Region Second Team ... All but five players on the 35-man 2018 roster, senior Jesse Moore (Port Orchard, WA) and newcomers Warren King (Bainbridge Island, WA), Garett Lake (Henderson, NV), Nick Senicka (Oak Brook, IL) and Tom Simpson (Port Orchard, WA), are California natives ... There are four San Diego products in senior Jack Rupe, Jr. (San Marcos/Mission Hills HS), redshirt juniors Eliopulos (La Jolla/San Diego Mesa College/La Jolla HS) and Cameron Kurz (Encinitas/La Costa Canyon HS), and freshman Evan Ianniciello (San Marcos/San Marcos HS) ... Junior right-hander Jonah Dipoto is the son of Jerry Dipoto, who pitched eight seasons for three Major League Baseball organizations, and is the general manager of the Seattle Mariners ... Redshirt sophomore utility Keenan Brigman (San Jose/UOP) is the younger brother of former University of San Diego shortstop and current Seattle Mariners top-30 prospect (No. 27) Bryson Brigman, a third-round selection in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft ... True freshman right-hander Noah Conlon is the younger brother of PJ Conlon, a former left-handed ace for the University of San Diego who is currently the No. 24 prospect in the New York Mets organization.
Over the first week of UC San Diego's season, redshirt freshman Antonio Barrios, Blake Baumgartner, Aaron Kim, Kyle Selor and Brandon Stewart, and true freshmen Noah Conlon, Garett Lake, Cameron Leonard and Shay Whitcomb, all earned their college debuts. Transfers Justin Beck, Zander Clarke, Mitch Hickey, Rj Prince, Mark Quinby, Christopher Schasteen and Tom Simpson made their first appearances as Tritons.
HEAD COACH ERIC NEWMAN
Eric Newman is in his seventh season as the UC San Diego head coach. The 2017 ABCA/Diamond Division II West Region Coach of the Year and 2012 CCAA Coach of the Year has a 238-140 record (169-101 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 333-212 overall in his nine-plus 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, and a subsequent trip to the NCAA Division II West Regional. His Tritons won a record sixth conference tourney crown in May of 2014 in Stockton, to again nab the CCAA's automatic bid into the NCAA Championship. With UCSD earning the region's top seed, Triton Ballpark played host to the 2014 NCAA West Regional. After reaching the finals of the West Regional in both 2014 and 2015, UCSD won its first West crown since 2010 last week in Azusa. Newman has led the Tritons to three CCAA banners, four NCAA postseason berths and one regional championship in his six years, as well as six plus-.500 and five 30-win campaigns. Last year's was his first 40-win squad. He earned win No. 200 in charge of UCSD against Chico State, 13-4, on the final day of the 2017 CCAA Championship on May 13. Newman won his 100th CCAA contest at home against Cal State San Bernardino, 9-4, on Feb. 26, 2016. He previously went 95-72 in three seasons at the helm of Dallas Baptist University from 2005-07. Newman was the fifth-round draft choice of the San Diego Padres out of Texas Tech in 1994, pitching professionally for eight years with four different organizations.
Eric Newman has Justin James back on his staff for a second year as the pitching coach, and J.T. Bloodworth for a sixth season in the UC San Diego dugout, now in his fourth year as the Tritons' recruiting coordinator. Jeff Calhoon is in his third go-around with Newman, who has also retained two former star right-handed Triton pitchers and Chula Vista natives who graduated in 2017 in Troy Cruz and Adrian Orozco. Bloodworth coaches third base and Calhoon is again at first base.
ABOUT THE COUGARS
Cal State San Marcos (20-26, 15-25 CCAA) is coming off a 3-1 series loss to Cal State San Bernardino. The Cougars managed a 22-12 outburst to begin Sunday's home doubleheader in San Bernardino, around losses of 4-3, 11-7 in 12 innings, and 14-2 in seven. They will conclude their 2018 campaign on Saturday in La Jolla. CSUSM is an identical 10-13 both at home and on the road. Tyler Place and Aidan Stinnett, the Cougars' only seniors, have seven home runs each, with Place also leading the team in doubles (12) and steals (tied-12). Matt Guiliano is in his second season at the helm of CSUSM.
UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 8-3. The Tritons swept all four games a year ago, by scores of 8-0, 5-3, 11-9, and 9-6 in seven innings. The 2016 series, the first as CCAA foes, came at the very end of the CCAA slate for both teams, and ended in a split. The Tritons won 11-2 in San Marcos before salvaging a doubleheader split at home (0-4, 7-2) on Senior Day. The Cougars then procured an 8-2 home decision. The teams had not met in a regular-season contest since an 8-4 win in La Jolla for the Tritons on March 22, 2010. UCSD previously topped CSUSM, 10-3, also at home, on Feb. 6, 2008. The Cougars' first triumph was on April 3, 2007, in La Jolla, 12-9. The Tritons knocked off the Cougars in preseason exhibitions at Triton Ballpark, 7-3 in 2013 and 19-0 in 2014.
Triton Ballpark on East Campus at UCSD was given a brand-new look outside the foul lines in 2015. Some of the main features of the extensive renovation included a permanent grandstand to seat just over 500, a press box, new sunken dugouts, an area for food trucks, and restrooms, among several other amenities. Read details here. Perhaps most significant is the Marye Anne Fox Clubhouse down the right field line, which was introduced to the players on March 17, 2015. The official Triton Ballpark re-opening and clubhouse dedication took place on April 10, 2015. View photo galleries from the ballpark construction, Opening Day and dedication.
For the latest in Triton athletic gear, make sure to visit ucsdtritonsgear.com. Run by UCSD Athletics' online partner, Advanced-Online, the site provides an on-demand option for Triton athletic apparel and merchandise. Fans have access to over 600 products that can be processed and shipped within 24 hours.
FOR THE YOUNGER CROWD
Got some young Triton fans in your family? If they are in eighth grade or under, check out the Junior Triton Club. Membership includes a free t-shirt, admission to over 100 UCSD home athletic events, and much more!
SOCIAL MEDIA (#BigWestBound)
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Coach Orozco on Twitter (@AdOrozco13)
UC San Diego heads by bus to Stockton on Tuesday, May 8, for the 2018 CCAA Championship. The Tritons will open the six-team, double-elimination tournament at Banner Island Ballpark on Wednesday, May 9, but the game time is dependent upon their seed, which will only be determined after this final week of the regular season. The CCAA Championship runs through Saturday, May 12, with the winner once again earning the league's automatic berth in the NCAA West Regional, May 17-21.