Fourth-Ranked Regular-Season Champion UC San Diego Searching for Record Eighth Tourney Crown in Stockton
The No. 4 University of California San Diego baseball team just flew back from Oakland Saturday night after a four-game sweep at Cal State East Bay last Thursday through Saturday, May 2-4. The Tritons are headed right back to Northern California, this time to Stockton, for the 2019 California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Tournament. The team departs East Campus by bus early Tuesday morning, May 7.
The top-seeded, regular-season champion Tritons (35-10, 30-10 CCAA) are making their sixth straight appearance, and open the six-team, double-elimination event against sixth-seeded Cal Poly Pomona (25-25, 23-21 CCAA) on Wednesday, May 8, at 11 a.m. The venue is once again Banner Island Ballpark, home of the minor-league Stockton Ports.
If UC San Diego wins on Wednesday, they would play on Thursday, May 9, at 3 p.m., against the loser of Wednesday's primetime tilt between third-seeded Chico State and fourth-seeded Stanislaus State. Should the Tritons falter on Wednesday, an elimination game awaits them at 11 a.m. on Thursday. Wednesday's middle game pits No. 2 seed Cal State Monterey Bay and fifth-seeded San Francisco State. Saturday's final is set for a 12 p.m. start, with an if-necessary second meeting slated for 4 p.m. The CCAA Tournament champion once again earns the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Championship.
UC San Diego, a winner of 28 of its last 34 games and seven straight, is No. 6 in all of Division II with a 3.13 ERA, and No. 10 with a .974 fielding percentage. The Tritons are suddenly up from 10th to fourth in the CCAA in hitting (.286), and still lead in slugging (.460), on-base percentage (.411) and home runs (46). Cal Poly Pomona is first in fielding (.975) ahead of UC San Diego, sixth in hitting (.284), and seventh in ERA (5.24).
UC San Diego has gone 58-14 over more than a calendar year, since leaving Chico on April 9, 2018, with a 3-1 series loss, its only one of last season. This stretch has included win streaks of nine and 13 to conclude 2018, and seven, 10, five and seven (current) this year. The Tritons have taken 11 sets (nine sweeps) and split the other five since that trip, with a program-record nine-game postseason win streak in there as well.
General admission tickets for the 2019 CCAA Tournament at Stockton's Banner Island Ballpark are $10. Students (high school, junior college, college) with identification and seniors (65 and over) can gain entry for $5, and children (3-12) for $3. Tickets are good for an all-day pass (three games, with two at the most on Saturday, May 11), and are available online here, or on game days at Banner Island Ballpark. The ballpark was built in 2005 with a capacity of 5,200. Details here.
Fans can once again watch the final three days of the 2019 CCAA Tournament on television on Eleven Sports USA (Channel 1665 on AT&T U-verse, 623 on DirecTV, 597 on Verizon Fios, fuboTV and more), or online, free of charge, at baosn.tv. Check local listings for more information. Wednesday's games will not be covered by BAOSN, but fans can still watch a live stream of the Tritons' opener with CPP, courtesy of Stanislaus State with no commentary, here, free in standard definition or for a nominal $4 fee in high definition. For any potential meetings with Chico State, veteran play-by-play voice Michael Baca will be on hand for the third-seeded Wildcats' activity (audio here). All games in Stockton will have live stats. Fans can access live coverage from the Schedule/Results page, or by clicking on the links above. Starting lineups, live in-game updates and other news and notes can be found by following Triton Baseball on Twitter (@UCSDbsb). Fans are encouraged to also still follow @UCSDtritons, and check out Instagram stories (@ucsd_baseball, @ucsdtritons).
CCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY
UC San Diego is making its 15th appearance at the CCAA Tournament in its 19th season as a league member. The Tritons are record seven-time champions, having most recently earned the banner at Banner Island Ballpark in 2014 and 2018. They also won titles for four straight years from 2009-12, after an initial success in 2005. They have posted a record of 33-18 (.647) at the event. Wednesday's opponent, Cal Poly Pomona (16-13, .552), was a first-time winner in 2015, and is making a sixth straight trip like the Tritons, and eighth overall. The Broncos went 2-2 a year ago and falling to UC San Diego in the final, 5-1. The Tritons have in fact knocked CPP out of the last two editions, with three meetings favoring UC San Diego, 2-1. Cal State Monterey Bay (4-10, .286) has earned its sixth berth, the others coming in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Chico State is a five-time winner (2000, 2004, 2006, 2016 and 2017). Stanislaus State is 1-6 (.143) over three prior appearances (2003, 2008, 2017), with its only CCAA tourney success against UC San Diego, 6-5 in 10 innings in a 2008 elimination game in Chico. San Francisco State has qualified for the second straight tournament, having gone 0-2 in its debut last May. The first of 20 previous editions of the event took place in 1999. This week will mark the ninth time the city of Stockton has hosted it, and sixth at Banner Island Ballpark. The 2010, 2011 and 2015 installments were at the University of the Pacific's Klein Family Field, with UC San Diego the champion in 2010 and 2011. The Tritons went 6-2 over those two title runs, and are 19-8 (.704) at the event in Stockton, including 12-4 (.750) at Banner Island Ballpark. Four of the seven times that the Tritons qualified for a CCAA tourney in Stockton, they have returned to La Jolla with the banner.
UC SAN DIEGO AGAINST THE CCAA TOURNAMENT FIELD
|2. CSUMB||3. CSUC||4. STAN||5. SFSU||6. CPP|
|Series||(31-19, 29-15)||(28-19, 24-18)||(29-21, 25-19)||(23-19-1, 21-19)||(25-25, 23-21)|
TRITONS SECOND IN SECOND NCAA REGIONAL POLL
The second release of the all-important NCAA regional rankings occurred on Wednesday, May 1, with UC San Diego dropping from first to second in the West Region behind Pacific West Conference champion and automatic qualifier Azusa Pacific (34-11, 24-4 PacWest). The Tritons remain ahead of city rival Point Loma, Cal State Monterey Bay, Stanislaus State, Western Oregon, MSU Billings and San Francisco State. The third edition will come on Wednesday, May 8. The top six teams in the final version on May 12, make up the NCAA Division II Championship West Regional, this year with the top two serving as hosts, May 16-18. The winner of the 2019 CCAA Tournament, May 8-11, earns an automatic berth into the West Regional, as does for the first time, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) tourney victor. The 56-team field for the 2019 NCAA Division II Championship will be unveiled at 7 p.m. PT on Sunday, May 12, and streamed live on NCAA.com.
Among the three separate preseason polls for NCAA Division II baseball, UC San Diego was rated No. 14 by the older Collegiate Baseball Newspaper (CBN), No. 4 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and No. 17 by Perfect Game. The Tritons were the unanimous No. 1 in the NCBWA Preseason West Region poll, grabbing all seven first-place votes. They also earned one of 19 first-place nods in the NCBWA's initial national listing. The first in-season CBN rankings had UC San Diego up to No. 10, with the Tritons currently up at a season-best No. 4. In the most recent NCBWA editions, UC San Diego is No. 3 nationally (four of 18 first-place votes), and remains No. 1 in the West (all eight first-place votes). The Tritons were also the unanimous No. 1 in that listing for seven weeks from March 4 through April 15.
|Tritons in the Polls|
|Collegiate Baseball Newspaper||No. 4||No. 14||No. 4||N/A|
|NCBWA||No. 3||No. 4||No. 1||No. 1|
|Perfect Game||No. 10||No. 17||No. 8||N/A|
LAST TIME OUT
UC San Diego posted its fourth four-game CCAA sweep of 2019 to round out the regular season last week at Cal State East Bay. The Tritons never trailed over the 34 innings contested, and scored a total of 50 runs on the Pioneers. The 21-2 romp on Thursday afternoon clinched a first CCAA regular-season title for UC San Diego since 2012, Eric Newman's first year in charge. The Tritons hit 10 home runs over the four games, with two each from Alex Athanacio, Blake Baumgartner, Alex Eliopulos and Aaron Kim, and first collegiate blasts by senior Keenan Brigman and true freshman Ryan McNally, a native of nearby Moraga. The 21 runs, 17 hits and nine extra-base hits on Thursday were all season highs for UC San Diego. The Tritons then generated 18 hits on Saturday and scored in every inning but the ninth. Noah Conlon (6.0 IP, 2 R), Brandon Weed (5.0, 0 R) and Preston Mott (5.0, 1 R) were effective in winning starting assignments on the mound.
SHAY HEY KID
Shay Whitcomb is a legitimate CCAA MVP candidate as just a sophomore. The star shortstop's batting average is at a team-best .337, with his 23 doubles tied for second nationally in Division II. He has smacked two doubles in a game seven times over the last 28 contests. Whitcomb has added seven home runs, the first six of those coming over just a seven-game span, March 3-30, when he also notched five doubles, 13 runs and 17 RBI. Whitcomb has been in the lineup as the shortstop in all 45 games. The Newbury Park native (Newbury Park HS) has reached base in each of the last 21, marking the best stretch by a Triton in 2019. Whitcomb also strung together UC San Diego's longest reached-base (31) and hit (14) streaks of 2018. The reached-base stretch came over the first 31 contests of his college career, finally snapped through an 0-for-4 day 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 2018 CCAA Freshman of the Year missed a single contest and started the other 59 at shortstop.
Junior right-handed newcomer Brandon Weed had picked up the winning decision in seven consecutive outings prior to April 20, the last six since joining the starting rotation. The Southwestern College transfer out of Grossmont High School and nearby Lemon Grove is now 8-0 (52.2 IP, 1.88 ERA, 10 BB, 32 K) as a starter, and 9-0 overall with a 1.73 ERA. Weed has appeared 13 times for UC San Diego, with the Tritons winning all 13 contests. His April 14 outing marked the team's only complete game in 2019, as Weed went the distance in the seven-inning nightcap against Cal State San Bernardino. He achieved season highs in strikeouts, of five and then eight, in his two starts on April 20 and April 27, against a solitary walk, and has gone at least 5.0 frames in all nine assignments.
ELIO A STAPLE AT THE HOT CORNER
Alex Eliopulos has started the last 121 games in a row, all at third base. He was UC San Diego's only player to even appear in all 60 contests in 2018. There is only one returner in all of Division II baseball (Mines' Mikey Gangwish with 86) who drove in more than Eliopulos' 72 runs a season ago. Those came in part through a career-best 14 home runs (two grand slams) for the La Jolla product, up from five from his first year in the program in 2017 as a transfer from San Diego Mesa College. Eliopulos is back up over .300, at .318, and is tied for first on the team in runs (43), and second in doubles (12) and RBI (40). He has two triples and six home runs, including three over his last six games. Eliopulos is just four away from achieving the 200-hit milestone.
MOTTY ON THE BUMP
Preston Mott, a left-hander from Clovis, is in his fourth and final season at UC San Diego with 52 starts among 57 appearances, a 25-10 win-loss record and 3.51 ERA for his career. He's thrown 290.0 innings with 221 strikeouts. Mott has answered the call for double-digit starts (14-plus) in each of his first three years, leading the Tritons in that category in both 2016 and 2018. On Feb. 1 in Irvine, he became the first Triton arm since all-time wins, innings and strikeouts leader Tim Shibuya (2010-11), to earn the starting assignment for multiple season openers, having also done so as a sophomore in 2017. Mott is five starts shy of matching Jose Navarro's (57 from 2003-06) program record, at least for the Division II era (since 2001). He is alone in third, now one ahead former ace Byron Grubman (2003-06), and one behind fellow two-time West Region champion Kirby St. John (2007-10).
Eight great Tritons who aided in back-to-back West Region crowns and a record seventh CCAA Tournament banner last May, were honored in between games of the April 28 doubleheader sweep over Cal State Dominguez Hills. Those eight are Keenan Brigman, Jonah Dipoto, Alex Eliopulos, Kyle Lucke, Preston Mott, R.J. Prince, Christopher Schasteen and Steven Schuknecht. Dipoto, Lucke and Schuknecht already completed their undergraduate degrees in March, and Brigman will begin a Master of Professional Accountancy at UC San Diego Rady School of Management in the fall after graduating in June. Mott (3.9 GPA in pharmacological chemistry) is an Academic All-America candidate. All eight will have earned their degrees by the end of this calendar year.
BEST TO BE LUCKE
Senior right-hander Kyle Lucke is the Triton closer in 2019 after serving as both a starter and middle reliever over his first three years in the program. He has eight saves after closing out both ends of the Senior Day twin bill on April 28, and the doubleheader nightcap May 3 in Hayward. Lucke is tied for second in the CCAA. The El Dorado Hills product leads the staff in appearances for a second straight season, with 19. Lucke is up to 77 appearances for his career, five from matching the all-time program record held by two-time Academic All-American Elias Tuma at 82 from 2009-12. In March, he already completed his degree requirements in the grueling physiology and neuroscience major.
TOP PITCHING STAFF NATIONALLY
UC San Diego leads the CCAA and West Region with its 3.13 ERA. That is sixth nationally in Division II, under the direction of first-year pitching coach Matt Harvey. The Tritons briefly bumped ahead of leader Delta State (2.55) and into the No. 1 position for likely the first time this year, after the 5-1 win at Stanislaus State on April 6, but the teams swapped places again after the next day's activity. UC San Diego finished with a 3.93 ERA a season ago, good for 23rd in the country, third in the West Region and second in the CCAA. The Tritons have placed among the top three in the CCAA in ERA in six of the past seven years. Their staff threw the fourth-most total innings in all of Division II in 2018 at 511.1, after leading the nation in 2017 (557.1).
SHAY GONNA SHAY
Sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb was simply spectacular in the four-game sweep of Cal State San Marcos, March 14-17. He completed the weekend batting .500 (11-22) with eight runs, five doubles, four home runs, 13 RBI, 28 total bases, and just one strikeout, slugging 1.273 with a .478 on-base percentage and only one error in 24 chances (.958). In the March 17 doubleheader road sweep alone, Whitcomb went 6-for-12 with a double, four home runs, six runs and 11 RBI. His season average improved 72 points, from .237 heading into the series, to .309 coming out. The effort earned him national, regional and conference recognition. The Newbury Park native was one of eight student-athletes and three position players from all levels of college baseball to be named among Collegiate Baseball's National Players of the Week. The other seven were from Division I. Whitcomb also earned his first career CCAA and NCBWA West Region Player of the Week honors. Read more here. He completed the month of March at .404 (21-52) with 15 runs, eight doubles, six home runs, 19 RBI, 47 total bases, a .904 slugging percentage and .467 on-base percentage.
UC San Diego continues a tradition of being strong defensively, as it is second in the CCAA, third in the West Region, and 10th nationally with a .974 fielding percentage. The Tritons wound up first in the CCAA and West Region and sixth nationally with a .974 fielding percentage in 2018. They also 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. UC San Diego 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. UC San Diego has been in the top 30 nationally and top three in the conference in fielding for each of the past nine 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. UC San Diego 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 two programs in the country have even fielded at a .980 rate since 2010, and they were Chico State in 2017 and Georgia College (.981) in 2018.
NUMBER ONE RANKING
UC San Diego was unveiled as the new No. 1 atop the NCBWA Division II Top 25 on April 16, with 13 of 19 first-place votes. The Tritons were No. 2 the previous week, earning five of 20 first-place votes, and are most recently No. 4 (one of 20 first-place votes) behind No. 1 Angelo State. UC San Diego was No. 1 in a Division II poll for the first time under eighth-year head coach Eric Newman. The Tritons were last rated No. 1 by the NCBWA back on Feb. 22, 2011. They were in that same position just one day before, in the Collegiate Baseball poll on Feb. 21, 2011. The then-reigning Division II national runner-up was off to a 10-2 start to the new campaign, but a road split at CCAA rival Cal State Monterey Bay knocked the Tritons down.
FIRST CAREER WEEKLY HONOR FOR BAUM
Redshirt sophomore first baseman Blake Baumgartner was a first-time CCAA Player of the Week on April 16. During a perfect 5-0 week, he led UC San Diego in batting (.556), runs (six-tied), hits (10), RBI (seven) and total bases (14). Baumgartner went 10-for-18 with his seventh double on the year, sixth home run, a .778 slugging percentage, two walks and a .571 on-base percentage. He handled all 40 defensive chances cleanly at first. Baumgartner's week was highlighted by a 4-for-5 effort in an 8-5 victory at CSUSB, which featured his first collegiate grand slam, four runs and four RBI. He is tied for first in the CCAA in walks (41), and third in on-base percentage (.468) and home runs (tied-10).
AK BREAKS OUT
Redshirt sophomore catcher Aaron Kim had a breakout series in the home sweep over Sonoma State, March 1-3, as he hit .429 (6-14) and slugged 1.143 (16 total bases) with four runs, one double, three home runs, 10 RBI and two walks. That included two long balls in the opener on March 1, with a two-run shot to left center on an 0-2 pitch in the first, and a first-pitch grand slam, the first of his college career, to left in the second. The performance earned him national and conference accolades. The Orange product was one of 19 student-athletes from all levels of college baseball to be named among Collegiate Baseball's National Players of the Week. The other 18 were all from the Division I ranks, including reigning Golden Spikes Award winner Andrew Vaughn of Cal. Kim then picked up his first, and the Tritons' first of 2019, CCAA Player of the Week distinction. Read more here. Kim hit a three-run, game-clinching home run at Cal State LA on April 19, and his second grand slam for a first collegiate walk-off in the home finale of that series the next day. He leads the CCAA in slugging percentage (.633), and is second with 11 home runs.
200 STRIKEOUTS FOR MOTTY
Senior left-hander Preston Mott struck out a career-high 12 batters over 6.0 innings of stellar relief to close out the first game of the April 7 doubleheader at Stanislaus State. The Clovis product allowed just a solo home run in the seventh among three hits, and one walk, not figuring in the decision. The fourth of his strikeouts, of the called variety for the second out in the fifth, marked milestone strikeout No. 200 for Mott's career, as he became just the eighth Triton arm to reach that number, finishing the day at 208. He is at 221, now alone in fifth all-time ahead of former ace and current Golden State Warriors senior vice president John Beaven (216 from 1999-02).
TEDDY TORCHING OPPONENTS
Junior right-hander Ted Stuka earned the winning decision in five straight appearances between Feb. 23-April 6, the first four in relief of sophomore Noah Conlon, and then as a starter on April 6 in Turlock (5.0 IP, 3 H, R, BB, 3K). The 39th-round Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft selection last June of the Baltimore Orioles threw 27.0 innings in those five outings and allowed three solitary runs, all earned (1.00 ERA), on 20 hits (three doubles, one home run and 16 singles), with 29 strikeouts against seven walks. Stuka was clocked as high as 96 or 97 with his fastball while blanking Chico State over 5.1 frames on March 30. He had issued only two walks over 15.0 innings and three stints between March 17-April 6. Stuka is currently 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA and 53 strikeouts over 45.2 innings.
Coming off a program-record 78 a season ago, UC San Diego got its new home run account going in the home opener on Feb. 3, getting a pair from redshirt sophomore roommates Brandon Stewart and Blake Baumgartner. Stewart provided the first long ball of 2019, a solo shot to lead off the second, with Baumgartner adding a three-run, opposite-field bomb over the wall in right center in the third. Stewart's was just the second of his career, and first at Triton Ballpark. Only one of Baumgartner's five blasts in 2018 were in La Jolla, but five of 10 so far in 2019, including the first three and last two, have come in home contests. The first two were to the opposite field in right center, ahead of a rare shot to straightaway center (seen here) against Cal State Monterey Bay on Feb. 16. Baumgartner has started all 45 games at first base, and is hitting .327 while leading the team in RBI (43) and walks (41). He is tied for first in the CCAA in walks, third in on-base percentage (.481), and tied for third in home runs (career-best 10).
UC San Diego pushed aside an 11-year-old program standard (72 in 2007) with 78 home runs a season ago. The Tritons return 42 of them, led by Alex Eliopulos' career-best 14. The record-breaker was Aaron Kim's pinch-hit, two-run blast in the eighth inning of the May 17 romp over Point Loma at the West Regional in Azusa. A remarkable eight were grand slams. UC San Diego has led the CCAA in home runs in consecutive seasons after belting 53 in 2017. The nine-home-run day in San Marcos on March 17 pushed the Tritons back atop the league in that category, where they still sit, alone again with 46. They have four grand slams this year. UC San Diego won each of its first 16 games when producing at least one home run in 2019, and is now 24-2 in such contests. The Tritons hit 10 long balls in four games at Cal State East Bay, May 2-4.
UC San Diego got off to a 7-0 start for the first time in its Division II history, since 2001. The Tritons finally suffered their first loss on Sunday, Feb. 17. They were previously 5-0 to begin the 2016 campaign under Eric Newman.
CCAA FAVORITES COME THROUGH!
CCAA regular-season champion UC San Diego had been picked by the 11 opposing CCAA head coaches as the favorite to take the 2019 CCAA title, as announced on Jan. 28. The Tritons earned nine of 11 possible first-place votes for 119 points, edging out fellow 2018 CCAA Tournament finalist Cal Poly Pomona (104 points and two first-place votes), 2018 regular-season champion Cal State Monterey Bay (102, one first-place vote) and rival Chico State (99).
UC San Diego has four walk-off victories in 2019, courtesy of senior rightfielder R.J. Prince, redshirt sophomore first baseman Blake Baumgartner, redshirt senior third baseman Alex Eliopulos and redshirt sophomore catcher Aaron Kim. Eliopulos and Kim's came in back-to-back series finales on April 14 and 20.
• Feb. 16: UCSD 4, CSUMB 3 (Watch)
Prince walked off No. 27 CSUMB to complete a doubleheader sweep and give the Tritons their first 7-0 start in the program's Division II history. His two-run, opposite-field double on an 0-2 pitch found the right field corner and chased Baumgartner home ahead of pinch-runner Christopher Schasteen as the winner. It was Prince's first walk-off hit at any level of baseball.
• March 1: UCSD 1, SSU 0 (10) (Watch)
Baumgartner walked off Sonoma State, also to complete a doubleheader sweep, with a bases-loaded, opposite-field single down the right field line for the game's only run in the bottom of the 10th inning. The hit scored Nick Kitzmann, who had been hit by a pitch.
• April 14: UCSD 3, CSUSB 2 (7) (Watch)
Eliopulos belted a two-out, two-run single just fair down the right field line to score Keenan Brigman from third and Shay Whitcomb from second in the home seventh of the nightcap, completing the sweep of the doubleheader and series.
• April 20: UCSD 7, CSLA 3 (7) (Watch)
After Eliopulos's RBI fielder's choice groundout to the right side with the bases full tied the game, Baumgartner walked to load the bases again, and Kim roped his second collegiate grand slam, to the opposite field and over the wall in right center, for his first career walk-off hit.
Junior college transfers Alex Athanacio, Tyler Leskiw, Luke Mattson, Zach Tresemer and Brandon Weed have all made their UC San Diego debuts. Redshirt freshmen Christopher Buting and Logan White, Jr., and true freshmen Blake FitzGerald, Michael Fuhrman, Ryan McNally, Michael Mitchell, Lonnie Morris and Arjun Nichani have also all earned their first collegiate appearances for the Tritons. McNally's first two college hits were RBI singles, one in each half of the Feb. 23 doubleheader home sweep over then-16th-ranked Cal Poly Pomona. He recently had a 13-game reached-base streak snapped. Fuhrman, FitzGerald and White have also since achieved their first career hits, with White's in his first plate appearance on March 30.
Seniors Alex Eliopulos and Preston Mott both earned preseason All-America recognition from a pair of outlets. Eliopulos was the NCBWA Preseason All-America Third Team third baseman, with Mott picking up an honorable mention. Both were among 10 West Region standouts to earn CBN Preseason All-America selections. Those two also represented UC San Diego on the NCBWA Preseason All-West Region First Team, with sophomores Shay Whitcomb and Blake Baumgartner on the second team. Whitcomb was among CBN's Players to Watch in the West, with junior right-hander Luke Mattson a Newcomer to Watch. Eliopulos was listed in Baseball America as one of 17 top draft prospects from the Division II ranks.
UC San Diego broke single-season standards in 2018 in home runs (78) and walks (nation-leading 329) offensively, and strikeouts (528) and strikeouts per nine innings (9.29) by its pitching staff. The Tritons also won a school-record nine consecutive postseason contests, the first eight via sweeps at both the CCAA Tournament and NCAA West Regional.
UC San Diego head coach Eric Newman, the two-time reigning American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Diamond NCAA Division II West Region Coach of the Year, has 20 returners and 15 newcomers to form a 35-player roster for 2019. His Tritons have posted back-to-back 40-win campaigns, going 43-17 a year ago with a record seventh CCAA Tournament banner and second successive regional trophy. That run included a program-record nine-game postseason win streak.
Newman welcomes back a pair of senior left-handers in power bat Alex Eliopulos at third base and Preston Mott on the mound. Other returning starters include utility Keenan Brigman, fellow redshirt junior Nick Kitzmann behind the plate, sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb, and redshirt sophomore centerfielder Brandon Stewart. More will be expected of redshirt sophomore Blake Baumgartner and seniors R.J. Prince, Christopher Schasteen and Steven Schuknecht.
Jonah Dipoto and Kyle Lucke, fourth-year seniors like Mott, are among the arms who are back, alongside the likes of redshirt juniors Blaine Jarvis and Mark Quinby, junior Ted Stuka, and sophomores Noah Conlon and Cameron Leonard. Stuka, a 6-foot-7 right-hander, was the 39th-round draft selection of the Baltimore Orioles, but opted to return to the Tritons. Conlon's freshman effort was cut short by injury.
Some top newcomers include junior college transfers Tyler Leskiw, Luke Mattson and Brandon Weed, and true freshman infielders Ryan McNally and Michael Fuhrman. Leskiw, an Australian native out of nearby San Diego Mesa College, is an outfielder, with Mattson (Golden West College) and Weed (Southwestern College) both right-handed pitchers.
UC San Diego is 7-1 in season openers under Eric Newman, with seven straight wins, and 16-3 since moving to Division II status for 2001 ... The Tritons are 6-2 in CCAA openers with Newman in charge, having last year had its five-game win streak snapped by San Francisco State, 4-1 ... UC San Diego is 11-8 in CCAA openers all-time (since 2001), and 10-1 with eight splits in sets to begin the league season ... The Tritons were 7-1-5 in sets in 2018, and were an undefeated 3-0-1 in their last four after a lone 3-1 series loss at Chico State, April 7-9 ... UC San Diego was 8-0-4 in sets in 2019, with four four-game CCAA sweeps ... The Tritons are 34-4 this season when scoring three or more runs, with their first loss on April 7, 7-3, in the seven-inning nightcap at Stan State ... UC San Diego is 29-0 when leading after six innings, 23-0 when leading after seven, and 25-0 when leading after eight.
UC San Diego brings back two unanimous All-West Region Second Team and All-CCAA First Team performers from 2018 in senior left-handers Alex Eliopulos at third base and Preston Mott on the mound ... Shay Whitcomb, the 2018 CCAA Freshman of the Year, earned All-CCAA honorable mention, as did fellow returners Blake Baumgartner, Keenan Brigman and Nick Kitzmann ... There are 16 players on the 2019 roster who were in Cary, N.C., last May, with seven of those Tritons (Brigman, Eliopulos, Kitzmann, Mott, Jonah Dipoto, Blaine Jarvis and Kyle Lucke) having also made the trip to Grand Prairie, Texas, for the 2017 NCAA Championship ... All but three players on the 35-man roster are California natives, the only exceptions being transfers Tyler Leskiw (Gold Coast, Australia) and Logan White, Jr. (Gilbert, Ariz.), and redshirt freshman Warren King (Bainbridge Island, Wash.) ... There are four San Diego products in Eliopulos (La Jolla/San Diego Mesa College/La Jolla HS), Brandon Weed (Lemon Grove/Southwestern College/Grossmont HS), Christopher Giovengo (San Diego/Grossmont HS) and Arjun Nichani (San Diego/Canyon Crest Academy) ... Dipoto, a fourth-year senior right-hander, is the son of Jerry Dipoto, who pitched eight seasons for three MLB organizations, and is the executive vice president and general manager of the Seattle Mariners ... Brigman (San Jose/UOP), a redshirt junior utility player, is the younger brother of former University of San Diego shortstop and current Miami Marlins top-30 prospect (No. 24) Bryson Brigman, a third-round selection of the Seattle Mariners in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft ... Sophomore right-hander Noah Conlon is the younger brother of P.J. Conlon, a former left-handed ace for the University of San Diego who made his major-league debut for the New York Mets in Cincinnati on May 7, 2018 ... White, who redshirted as a freshman at Division I Coastal Carolina last year, is the son of Logan White, director of player personnel for the San Diego Padres and senior advisor to general manager A.J. Preller.
UC San Diego swept through a second successive NCAA West Regional in Azusa to make a return trip to the NCAA Championship, this time back in Cary, N.C., with 2010 marking its last visit. After a 4-0 shutout over Texas A&M Kingsville in their first game there, the Tritons dropped back-to-back contests to end the campaign at 43-17 overall. That was all after UC San Diego also swept through four games for its record seventh CCAA Tournament crown, up north in Stockton. The Tritons had shared the top spot in the final CCAA standings with Cal State Monterey Bay at 30-14 each, but lost out to the Otters for the regular-season banner by virtue of tiebreaker rules.
The CCAA baseball landscape is the same in 2019. The top six teams in the final standings, by straight winning percentage, qualify for the 2019 CCAA Tournament. Each team 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. It will be held in the neutral-site city of Stockton for the seventh year in a row, returning to Banner Island Ballpark of the minor-league Stockton Ports, May 8-11. UC San Diego has already booked a sixth successive trip.
UC San Diego's road back to Cary, N.C., this year will have a different look. Though six teams still qualify for the West Regional of the NCAA Championship, there will now be two weekends of action to determine the West's representative in Cary. A pair of three-team, double-elimination sub-regionals take place May 16-18, with a super regional added the following week to mirror the Division I format. That will be a best-of-three series, taking place at a campus site, May 24-25.
HEAD COACH ERIC NEWMAN
Eric Newman is in his eighth season as the UC San Diego head coach. The two-time reigning ABCA/Diamond Division II West Region Coach of the Year and 2012 CCAA Coach of the Year has a 286-152 record (203-111 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 381-224 overall in his 10-plus seasons as a head coach. Newman has guided UC San Diego to back-to-back West Region crowns, sweeping through all eight games at the last two regionals, both in Azusa. The Tritons were national runners-up in 2017 in Grand Prairie, Texas. Newman led UC San Diego to the CCAA regular-season and tournament titles in his first go-around in La Jolla in 2012, record sixth and seventh CCAA tourney championships in 2014 and 2018, respectively, and back atop the regular-season table in this current campaign. The Tritons have appeared in the NCAA West Regional in four of the last five seasons, advancing to the title round each time, and earned five NCAA Championship bids in all during Newman's tenure. With UC San Diego earning the region's top seed, Triton Ballpark played host to the 2014 NCAA West Regional. Entering 2019, Newman had led the Tritons to seven plus-.500 and six 30-win seasons, and back-to-back 40-win campaigns. He earned win No. 200 in charge of UC San Diego 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, and his 200th at Cal State East Bay, 21-2, on May 2, 2019. 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 welcomed in an entirely new staff for the 2019 campaign in Jonathan Johnston, Bryson LeBlanc, Matt Harvey, Michael Ramazzotti and Justin Beck. Johnston is in his second go-around in the Triton dugout, having assisted Newman over his first three seasons in La Jolla, 2012-14. Harvey is the pitching coach. Ramazzotti coaches first base, with LeBlanc at third. Johnston returned from UNC Asheville, with LeBlanc (UC Riverside) and Harvey (UC Santa Barbara) arriving from future Big West Conference foes, and Ramazzotti making the short jump from the University of San Diego. Beck was an All-West Region and All-CCAA second baseman for UC San Diego last year following a transfer from San Jose State. He is the undergraduate assistant coach while completing his degree in communication. Click here for a Q&A with the new staff.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS
Cal Poly Pomona (25-25, 23-21 CCAA) is coming off a 3-1 victory in a split-venue series against Cal State San Marcos. The Broncos dropped the opener in San Marcos, 7-4, before rallying with a 5-3 road success on Saturday and a doubleheader home sweep on Sunday, 5-1 and 9-4 in seven innings. CPP's ace, senior right-hander Tim Holdgrafer (8-4, 4.37), played with Triton senior Alex Eliopulos at La Jolla High School. Junior newcomers Luke Mattson of UC San Diego and Troy Bethell of CPP were the top two pitchers at Golden West College together in 2018. Troy's older brother Max Bethell was himself a standout left-hander for the Broncos (2013-16). Junior Brennan McKenzie, the 2017 CCAA Freshman of the Year, leads the team with five home runs. In 2015, CPP secured its first CCAA regular-season title (28-12) since 1991, ahead of a first-ever tournament banner. The Broncos then earned the top seed in the West, and thus the right to host the West Regional for the first time since 1985, at Mt. SAC in nearby Walnut. CPP won that tourney over UC San Diego and ultimately was one of the last three teams left standing (46-17) in Cary, N.C. In 2016, the Broncos finished a full six games ahead of UC San Diego in the CCAA South, again ended the Tritons' season, this time on day three of the CCAA Championship, and earned a return trip to Cary as repeat champions of the West. The Broncos were among the final four squads remaining, getting eliminated by eventual national champion Nova Southeastern via 5-2 decision. Randy Betten, the 2015 NCBWA West Region and CCAA Coach of the Year, is in his ninth season in charge at Cal Poly Pomona.
UC San Diego leads the all-time series between these teams, 50-39, and holds a 32-25 advantage over the last 57 meetings since 2009. The teams split four games in late February, with the home team winning every matchup. The Tritons won three out of five last year, with a 5-1 triumph in the CCAA Tournament finals in Stockton (CPP had to win twice) following another regular-season series split. The sides faced off six times in each of the previous four seasons, with at least one postseason matchup (Tritons 4-4) in five straight years. The Tritons went 2-4 against the Broncos in 2017 (1-1 at CCAA Championship) and 4-2 in 2016. In 2016, they first took a 6-2 non-conference decision in La Jolla (2/14), with Preston Mott tossing five shutout frames in his college debut. UC San Diego won the regular-season series, 3-1, taking the first three before dropping the finale in Pomona, 3-2. The Tritons then saw their season ended by the Broncos, 9-6, at the CCAA Championship. CPP went 5-1 against the Tritons in 2015, winning the regular-season set, 3-1, with UC San Diego only procuring the opener, 4-3, in walk-off fashion in 11. The Broncos were narrow 2-1 victors in the winner's bracket at the CCAA Championship, and 7-4 in a riveting West Region final in Walnut. The two teams played each other six times in 2014 as well, splitting their regular-season series before the Tritons took a pair of postseason matchups at the CCAA tourney and the West Regional. Four of those showdowns were decided in the final inning. Three were of the walk-off variety, with one apiece in Pomona and La Jolla before UC San Diego earned a 5-4 victory on an RBI double by Nick La Face with two outs in the 11th inning into the left field corner on the second night of the CCAA tournament in Stockton. Of the 29 meetings from 2014-18, 10 had one-run margins, with UC San Diego 5-5 in those games, with four extra-inning affairs and seven walk-offs. Prior to 2014, the sides also split their four-game sets in 2012 and 2013, with both 2-2 at home and 2-2 on the road. CPP ended UC San Diego's 2011 season at the West Regional in La Jolla, and the Tritons returned the favor on May 16, 2014, through a 22-hit, 20-5 thumping. In five of the past eight years, one team has ended the other's season in this rivalry. Apart from that 20-5 rout, the average margin of the other 28 matchups (74/28) from 2014-18, has been 2.64 runs.
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.
Triton Ballpark on East Campus at UC San Diego 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 UC San Diego 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 younger, check out the Junior Triton Club. Membership includes a free t-shirt, admission to over 100 UC San Diego home athletic events, and much more!
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No matter the results in Stockton this week, UC San Diego will eagerly anticipate its standing for the 2019 NCAA Championship. The 56-team NCAA field will be unveiled on Sunday evening, May 12, live at 7 p.m. PT on NCAA.com. Triton Ballpark remains a potential venue, with the two halves of the West Regional taking place, May 16-18, and the super regional on May 24-25.
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 37 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).