On its first four-game win streak since 2012, UC San Diego plays host to defending California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) regular-season champion Cal State Monterey Bay for a four-game series this weekend. UCSD and CSUMB will open the set in primetime at Triton Ballpark on Friday, March 14, at 6 p.m. The teams will then contest a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 12 p.m. Sunday's finale is set for an 11 a.m. first pitch.
The Tritons are 11-6 overall and 8-4 in the CCAA. Their sweep of Cal State Dominguez Hills last weekend gave them the CCAA's longest current win streak at four games, and moved them from seventh up to sole possession of second in the league standings. The eighth-place Otters are 9-14 overall and 6-10 in league play. The Tritons are 7-2 over their last nine and 8-4 at home, while CSUMB is 3-7 on the road.
The Otters snapped the Tritons’ run of four consecutive regular-season crowns a year ago, in fact clinching their first title outright with a 5-3 home win over UCSD on the final day on May 5.
General admission tickets to all regular-season home games at Triton Ballpark are $5, and are available for purchase beginning one hour prior to start time. All UCSD students are admitted FREE with valid identification. Parking on the UCSD campus is free on weekends, but a permit is required and strongly recommended 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 when parking vehicles.
All UCSD home games at Triton Ballpark feature a live online video stream and live stats. Weeknight CCAA contests will additionally have audio commentary, provided again by former Triton pitcher Tim Strombel (2007-08), including this Friday night against CSUMB. The audio/video is free, but does require registration and a login. Some road contests will also have video. Fans can access all live coverage for home and away dates from the Schedule/Results page. Finally, starting lineups, live between-inning updates and other in-game news and notes can be found during home contests and some road games by following Triton Baseball all season long on the UCSD Athletics Twitter handle (@UCSDtritons).
ABOUT THE OTTERS
Cal State Monterey Bay (9-14, 6-10 CCAA) is coming off of a 3-1 split-venue series victory over San Francisco State last weekend. The Otters allowed just three runs in the wins by scores of 10-2, 4-0 and 2-1, around a 6-4 home loss. Those results came on the heels of a 3-1 series loss at Chico State, when CSUMB bats could muster only nine total runs. In their title-winning 2013 campaign, the Otters also made their first-ever CCAA Championship appearance and achieved the most wins in program history (39-17). Senior outfielder Mark Hurley is the only CSUMB player to have started all 23 games, and is batting a team-best .405 (34-for-84) with 15 runs scored, eight doubles, 20 RBI and five steals on six attempts. Brian Hamm (.284) has 19 runs, seven doubles, 12 walks and nine steals. Redshirt junior right-hander Jeff Owen is 4-1 with a 2.62 ERA and one shutout among two complete games. Walt White, the 2013 CCAA Coach of the Year, is in his fourth season in charge at Cal State Monterey Bay.
UCSD leads the all-time series with Cal State Monterey Bay, 25-10, since the first meetings in 2006, including 24-8 in conference match-ups. CSUMB took three out of four in Seaside to conclude the 2013 regular season. UCSD took the 2012 set in La Jolla, three games to one. The Tritons split four games in their 2011 visit to Seaside as the nation’s top-ranked team.
LAST TIME OUT
UCSD defeated Cal State Dominguez Hills four times by scores of 1-0, 7-0, 9-7 and 12-4 in a shortened six innings. The first two shutout triumphs came in night games in La Jolla, with the latter two via doubleheader sweep in Carson on March 8. The finale, scheduled for seven innings, was halted after six due to darkness. UCSD used a trio of big innings to take both ends of the twin bill that day, rallying late from a 7-6 deficit in game one with three unanswered runs in the final two frames.
LA FACE NAMED CCAA PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Nick La Face was selected Monday as the CCAA Baseball Player of the Week for the week of March 3-9. La Face, a native of North Hollywood (Notre Dame HS), continued his hot start to his fifth and final season as a Triton, leading UCSD to a four-game, split-venue CCAA series sweep over Cal State Dominguez Hills. He hit .545 (6-for-11) with eight walks for a .737 on-base percentage and two doubles for a .727 slugging percentage. La Face started all four games, scored four runs and drove in seven. He is the second Triton to earn a weekly conference honor after Justin Rahn on Feb. 3.
DIVISION II SINGLE-GAME STRIKEOUT KING
Sophomore right-hander Justin Donatella struck out a career-high 13 over a career-long 8.1 innings (3 H, 0 BB) in a 1-0 home victory against Cal State Dominguez Hills on Thursday, March 6. The strikeout total was a UCSD program record in the NCAA Division II era (since 2001). Matt Rossman struck out 12 over a remarkable 11.0 innings against Central Missouri at the 2010 NCAA Division II Championship in Cary, N.C., on May 24, 2010, and Jeff Rauh set down 12 on strikes in six complete frames vs. Western Oregon on 2012 Opening Day (2/3). Donatella tossed 6.2 no-hit innings before allowing a double.
UCSD put together a five-run second inning and benefitted from four errors in posting a second successive shutout victory against Cal State Dominguez Hills, 7-0, at Triton Ballpark on March 7. The Tritons thus produced back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1995, having blanked the Toros in the opener of their four-game CCAA series the previous night, 1-0. In 1995, UCSD had shutout wins on the road at Concordia, 5-0, on April 3, and Southern California College (now Vanguard), 6-0, on April 5. The latter result marked UCSD’s third shutout of 2014 after the 9-0 decision vs. Holy Names on Opening Day (2/2).
FACE LOOKING TO FINISH STRONG
Senior catcher and designated hitter Nick La Face has gotten off to a great start to his final year in a Triton uniform. La Face has played in 16 of 17 games, starting all 16, and is batting a team-best .396 with a league-leading .568 on-base percentage. He is slugging .623, second-best in the CCAA, with 33 total bases from five doubles, two triples and one of two Triton home runs. La Face has drawn 17 walks for a share of the conference lead, scored 11 runs and driven in 16. Entering play on Feb. 14 with one career triple, he belted a pair in the series with Chico State. La Face hit the ball hard that whole weekend to the tune of a .375 average (6-for-16) in the four-game home split with the rival 'Cats. He slugged .875 with the two triples, a double, and his first home run of 2014 among his six base hits, while driving in four runs.
UCSD entered its series with Cal Poly Pomona Feb. 20-22 with six double plays over its first nine games. The Tritons turned nine during the four-game weekend split, with four in the opener and three the next day. Four different CPP batters hit into the four double plays in that first game, with the first two started by Tyler Howsley, a true freshman making just his fourth start at shortstop. The last two came in the eighth and ninth, with a pair of Broncos on base each time and UCSD nursing a precarious 4-2 advantage. The Tritons had last turned four double plays at San Francisco State on April 30, 2010. That 2010 squad that went 54-8 and lost in the national championship game, set a school record with 68 twin killings on the year. The Tritons have now turned 20 double plays through 17 games in 2014.
In the first game of a Feb. 22 doubleheader with Cal Poly Pomona, UCSD produced its first walk-off triumph of 2014, 6-5, as Garrett Tuck's single to center drove in Troy Cruz from second base. Pinch-runner Gradeigh Sanchez had stolen home to level the score just moments before as the Tritons erased the 5-4 ninth-inning deficit.
Triton sophomore Troy Cruz has been a jack of all trades once again this season. The 2013 All-CCAA First Team selection at utility is the only Triton who has started all 17 games, at either third base (11), designated hitter (three) or pitcher (three). He has also made two relief appearances. In his first mound start of the season on Feb. 16, Cruz matched his career-long effort of 7.0 innings (6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) to earn the win and the series split for UCSD against Chico State. Most recently, Cruz tossed the first complete game by a UCSD pitcher in 2014, going 6.0 innings in a 12-4 win at CSUDH (3/8). Cruz accounted for the Tritons' lone complete game in 2013 as well. He hit in the leadoff position in each of the first eight games, and is now batting .328 with a team-leading 18 RBI.
Justin Donatella (3-1) has achieved a new career long in each of his four starts thus far in 2014. He is a perfect 3-0 in his first three conference starts. Prior to his game vs. CSUDH (3/6), Donatella allowed two runs on four hits and three walks over 7.0 innings at Cal Poly Pomona (2/20). He retired 11 straight Broncos at one point. The sophomore Saugus native gave up one hit over six shutout innings in an 8-1 victory over then-12th-ranked Chico State (2/14). He walked two and struck out six. In the process, Donatella outdueled Chico State ace and then-reigning CCAA Pitcher of the Week Nick Baker. He set down 10 batters in a row during one stretch. That win was his second as a college pitcher and first as a starter. Donatella was the individual story of the exhibition season. The big 6-foot-6 right-hander who saw just 13.2 innings of work as a freshman in 2013 (11.20 ERA), wrapped up his preseason with nine shutout frames over two starts (2-0) with six hits allowed, all singles, no walks, and 14 strikeouts.
LEAGUE LEADERS IN GETTING PLUNKED
Through 17 games, UCSD players have been hit a league-leading 40 times by opposing pitchers. The next closest are Chico State (29) and this weekend's opponent, Cal State Monterey Bay (28). Thirteen different Tritons have been hit at least once, led by Troy Cruz, Brett Levy and Michael Mann with six apiece. The trio is tied for fourth in the conference.
UCSD produced a resounding doubleheader sweep at home over Holy Names University on Opening Day on Feb. 2. Scores were 11-1 and 9-0 as the Tritons came up with 22 hits while allowing just nine. Every player who started one or both games, had at least one hit and one run on the afternoon. Senior leftfielder Justin Rahn led the way with a .444 average (4-for-9) and five RBI. Starting pitchers Blake Fassler and Dan Kolodin each tossed five strong innings in earning the winning decisions. Also of note in his collegiate debut was redshirt freshman outfielder Brandon Shirley lacing a 2-2 pitch down the left field line for a double in the eighth inning of game one to punctuate the first at-bat of his Triton career.
WEEKLY AWARD FOR RAHN
Justin Rahn's stellar Opening Day netted him the season's first CCAA Baseball Player of the Week award on Feb. 3. It was the first of his career. Rahn put UCSD on the scoreboard in both victories over Holy Names, clearing the bases with a three-run double to left in the first inning of game one and adding the first home run by a Triton in 2014, a two-run shot to center, in the second inning of the nightcap.
PENCIL FASS IN FOR FIVE INNINGS
Senior right-hander Blake Fassler, who walked just nine in 64.2 innings against 50 strikeouts for a stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.56 in 2013, has gone at least 5.0 innings in 12 of his 14 starting assignments as a Triton, including four of five in 2014.
UCSD, which appeared at No. 39 in the preseason edition of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's NCAA Division II top-40 poll, released back on Dec. 24, appeared in this week's CBN listing among several teams receiving votes just outside of the top 30. UCSD is also getting votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) poll, and has gradually moved up from No. 10 (preseason) to No. 4 this week in the NCBWA West Region listing.
PLENTY OF TALENT BACK
UCSD's 36-player 2014 roster features 17 letterwinners, two returning redshirts and 17 newcomers. The Tritons bring back six of nine position starters, as well as three of four starting pitchers from a year ago. Troy Cruz was the 2013 CCAA Freshman of the Year and an All-CCAA First Team honoree after a standout rookie campaign as a multiple threat on the mound, in the field and at the plate. The senior tandem of fifth-year catcher Nick La Face and fourth-year left-sided infielder Garrett Tuck were both All-West Region selections in 2012, and are each former All-CCAA First Team picks in their own right, with Tuck in 2012 and La Face in 2011. Tuck earned that distinction at shortstop, and looks to be back at that position after spending 2013 at third base. Spencer Frazier and Justin Rahn are two more senior veterans who garnered All-CCAA honorable mention in 2012. On the mound, right-handers Cruz, Blake Fassler and Dan Kolodin were in the rotation in 2013. Senior right-hander Scott Zeman and junior left-hander Chad Rieser are again available out of the bullpen.
NEWS ON NEWCOMERS
There are 17 players new to the Triton roster. Junior transfers Erik Lewis and Michael Mann are everyday starters at second and first base, respectively. Lewis spent the 2013 season at Fullerton College after beginning his college career at Division I Big West Conference power Long Beach State. He is currently third in the CCAA in walks (15) and on-base percentage (.481). Mann is from Diablo Valley College. Jack Larsen, Christian Leung and Tyler Howsley are a trio of true freshmen who have earned their college debuts and started several games. Larsen and Howsley were teammates at Capistrano Valley High School. Three new arms to see the mound this season have been Eric Moersen, a sophomore left-handed specialist who transferred from the University of Utah, and junior right-handers Javier Carrillo, Jr., and Dean Friedberg. Moersen needed 12 pitches to retire the first three batters he faced over three appearances, with two on strikes. Eight newcomers are slated to redshirt.
UCSD ended then-15th-ranked and previously undefeated Cal Poly Pomona's perfect 10-0 start to the campaign with a 4-2 victory behind seven strong innings from Justin Donatella and four clutch double plays defensively in Pomona (2/20) ... UCSD is 2-1 in season openers under Eric Newman and 11-3 since moving to Division II status for 2001 ... UCSD is 2-1 in CCAA openers with Newman in charge, with back-to-back wins after a 4-1 loss to Chico State in La Jolla on Feb. 17, 2012 ... The Tritons are an even 7-7 in CCAA openers all-time (since 2001), and 7-1 with six splits in sets to begin the league season ... Having earned a third straight split with a 7-3 win in the Sunday finale on Feb. 16, UCSD still has not lost its regular-season four-game series with rival Chico State since 2007, when it dropped three of four in Chico ... Troy Cruz was named on Jan. 29 to the utility position on the 15-player NCBWA Preseason All-West Region First Team ... UCSD was picked to place sixth in the 2014 CCAA regular-season race by the league's 11 head coaches, also as announced on Jan. 29, with 2013 West Region runner-up Chico State favored for the third time in as many years to finish first, and reigning CCAA regular-season champion Cal State Monterey Bay projected for second ... All but two players on the 37-man 2014 roster, junior pitcher Alon Leichman (Kibbutz Gezer, Israel) and redshirt outfielder Tim White (Stratford, CT), are California natives ... Besides Cruz (Chula Vista/Bonita Vista HS), the four remaining San Diego products are fellow sophomore Adrian Orozco (Chula Vista/Otay Ranch HS), redshirt freshman Austin Hensley (San Diego/Valhalla HS) and redshirts Steven Coe (Valley Center/Valley Center HS) and Gabe Simpson (Encinitas/Cathedral Catholic HS).
UCSD's 2014 schedule consists of 46 regular-season games (following four rain cancellations with Sonoma State), including 22 at home within the friendly confines of Triton Ballpark. The Tritons have the luxury of facing the two projected favorites in the CCAA, Chico State and Cal State Monterey Bay, a combined eight times in La Jolla. UCSD plays 16 of its first 21 at home, but closes with 19 of 25 on the road. For the second year in a row, the CCAA Championship will be held at Stockton's neutral-site Banner Island Ballpark, home of the Stockton Ports, the Class A Advanced affiliate of Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics. The four-team tournament takes place May 8-11, with UCSD a five-time champion (2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012).
HEAD COACH ERIC NEWMAN
Eric Newman is in his third season as the UCSD head coach. The 2012 CCAA Coach of the Year has a 70-54 record (54-38 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 165-126 overall in his five 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 berth in the NCAA Division II West Regional. He previously spent three years at the helm of Dallas Baptist University from 2004-07.
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UCSD takes a break next week for winter quarter final exams. The Tritons return to action with a non-conference pair at Azusa Pacific on Monday, March 24, and Tuesday, March 25, each at 5 p.m.