STOCKTON, Calif. – UC San Diego was eliminated from the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championships Saturday at Arnaiz Stadium after falling to No. 3 Cal State Monterey Bay, 10-8. The Tritons pulled within one in the fifth inning, but couldn’t climb all the way back in the first meeting between the two schools in 2014.
UCSD falls to 33-16 overall following the loss, while CSUMB improves to 45-8. The Otters move on to face Sonoma State in the nightcap with the winner advancing to face Humboldt State in the championship Sunday at noon.
The loss marks the first time since 2010 the Tritons won’t be present on championship Sunday at the CCAA Tournament. UCSD finished second in 2011, first in ’12 and second in ’13 before taking fourth this season.
The Tritons managed 12 hits on the afternoon, led by a 4-5 performance from Callie Grant in the loss. The sophomore outfielder was named to the CCAA All-Tournament Team following conclusion of the championships Sunday.
A difference in the game proved to be the 12 runners UCSD left on base. The Tritons were a key hit away from climbing all the way back on multiple occasions after an early 5-0 deficit.
“This was our best offensive performance in about a month,” said head coach Patti Gerckens. “We’re missing the one big hit, though. We finished with 12 hits on the night with single after single to set the table, but we need someone going forward to come up with that clutch hit that cleans the table. Unfortunately, we just fell a couple of runs short tonight.”
The Otters wasted no time in chasing Triton starter Alexis Edwards from the game after plating one in the opening inning and four in the second. The sophomore lefty allowed six hits, five earned runs and walked two in 2.1 innings.
The Tritons went down fighting despite the early hole, and cut the Otter lead to one, 6-5, after five innings.
The Tritons added another run in the fourth on three hits. Willmon delivered an RBI single up the middle to plate Emma Schneider, who doubled.
In the second and third innings, however, UCSD left five runners on base and had two runners gunned out at home.
The big inning came in the bottom of the fifth for the Tritons with three runs on two hits and three CSUMB errors. With the bases loaded and one out, Schneider brought home a run on an RBI groundout before an error on a ball hit by Katie Saunders plated the second run for UCSD. A second consecutive error on a ball hit by Willmon plated another to make the score 6-5. With the tying run on second, Grant was called out on an interference play after a ball off her bat hit her foot outside of the batter’s box to end the threat.
CSUMB answered with three the next half inning and another in the seventh to extend its lead back to 10-5.
UCSD brought the tying run to second in the final frame on one hit and two Otter errors, but the late rally was killed by a diving play from Alissa Greenhaw off the bat of McKenna Clewett that nearly reached the outfield. The Tritons managed three runs in the inning before falling just short of the comeback.
“I think we’ve seen some of the best teams that we are going to face in the West Region,” said Gerckens about the chance of heading into a regional playoff tournament next weekend. “Our team believes we can compete and win against the best of them. If we could get our hitting and our pitching in sync, I think we’d be unstoppable.”
The Tritons, ranked No. 5 in the West Region rankings entering the weekend, will learn its postseason fate on Monday, May 5 at the NCAA selection show. The top-eight teams in the region will advance to the NCAA postseason. The selection show can be watched live at 7 a.m. by clicking here.