Q&A With Senior Third Baseman Alex Eliopulos
Only one returning student-athlete nationally in NCAA Division II baseball drove in more runs in 2018 than UC San Diego third baseman Alex Eliopulos. The redshirt senior and La Jolla product (La Jolla HS) knocked in 72 in his second season as a Triton after spending one year each at Lewis-Clark State College and San Diego Mesa College in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Eliopulos got to that total on partially the basis of 14 home runs, and enters his final go-around of college baseball having started the last 76 games in a row, all at third base. "We expect Alex to be a leader on our team and a guy who sets the tone," remarked eighth-year head coach Eric Newman. "Offensively, he really understands our approach and what we're about. Defensively, he's been very steady at third base now for a year and a half, and with him and (shortstop) Shay (Whitcomb) on the left side of the infield, we expect that to be a strength of our team. Alex is a returning all-conference, preseason All-American-type player. This is his senior year and I know he wants to do well and has prepared himself for that. We expect him to just do what he does, and I feel like he's going to do really well in that. He's a proven performer, and I think he will be this year, too." Ahead of Saturday's exhibition opener with Hope International (2 p.m. at Triton Ballpark with parking and admission free), Alex took a few moments to be our first Triton Baseball Q&A guest.
Q: How gratifying has it been, especially as a La Jolla native, to have both of your years as a Triton end with West Region titles and trips to the NCAA Championship?
ELIOPULOS: It has been a lot of fun to play in front of my friends and family the past couple of years. It has also been very special to be able to put UCSD back on the map and bring notoriety to the town in which I grew up.
Q: Out of many incredible moments, what has been one that has stood out to you the most from these back-to-back runs?
ELIOPULOS: Out of the many unbelievable moments that I have experienced in a Triton uniform, the one that stood out the most was Michael Palos' walk-off hit to send us back to the World Series for the second year in a row.
Q: What really clicked for you last year in order to basically triple your home run output from 2017 to 2018?
ELIOPULOS: The biggest thing that helped me in 2018 was being able to stick to an approach while hitting, and execute it. This allowed me to look for one pitch, rather than multiple pitches at one time.
Q: What is it like to be in a lineup generally, and heart of the order specifically, as potent as the one you were a part of last season?
ELIOPULOS: Being in a lineup last year with names such as Zander Clarke and Tyler Durna was really special. Having guys that can do damage at the plate allowed me to have protection. I knew that the pitchers were going to have to throw to one of us, and it allowed me to let it eat at the plate.
Q: With Zander Clarke and Tyler Durna gone from that formidable trio, do you feel any more pressure or responsibility to make up for their absences?
ELIOPULOS: Having Zander Clarke and Tyler Durna in the lineup last year was great. It allowed me to focus on myself and not do too much. Even though they are gone this year, I know I can count on some of the guys this year to pick it up. I don't feel any more pressure than last year. My plan is to not do too much and just work with the pitches that I get, because once I try to do too much, that is when bad things happen.
Q: With the program's recent success, naturally there was a demand for the assistants under Coach Newman. How has the adjustment period gone through the fall, toward the new staff?
ELIOPULOS: This fall, with having a whole new coaching staff, I would say things have gone pretty smoothly. There is obviously a different way in how each coach teaches things. But, I am pleasantly surprised with what each assistant coach has brought to the table. Each coach is devoted to making us the best ballplayer we can possibly be.
Q: The answer may seem obvious, but what are your team and individual hopes and goals for this final season of college baseball for you?
ELIOPULOS: As a team, our goal is to win our conference, win the CCAA tournament, host a regional and go back to the World Series for the third time in a row. However, this time when we are at the World Series, actually win a championship. Personally, I just want to go out on the field this year and not hold back anything and just have fun.
Q: As a sociology-law and society major, what are your future plans after June?
ELIOPULOS: After I graduate from UCSD, I aspire to study for the LSAT and attend law school.
Q: Is there a professional player or two, a third baseman or otherwise, who you admire and try to pattern your game after?
ELIOPULOS: My favorite player to watch both offensively and defensively is Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies. He has been year in and year out one of the best players not only at third base, but in MLB.
Q: There's a reference on your bio form about you being featured in teammate Keenan Brigman's SoundCloud rap, which begs a final question. If the Tritons had a rap battle, who wins?
ELIOPULOS: Keenan Brigman, 100 percent. The man can get after it and has some bars.
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.
Follow the Tritons
For complete coverage and information regarding UC San Diego Athletics, follow the Tritons online at UCSDtritons.com and through social media on Twitter (@UCSDtritons), Instagram (@ucsdtritons) and Facebook (UCSDtritons). For more information on UC San Diego Baseball, follow on Twitter (@UCSDbsb) and Instagram (@ucsd_baseball). Head coach Eric Newman is also on Twitter (@CoachEricNewman).