2014 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship West Regional
Triton Ballpark • La Jolla
The 15th-ranked California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) champion UC San Diego baseball team plays host this week to the 2014 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship West Regional at Triton Ballpark. The Tritons open the six-team, double-elimination tournament on Thursday night, May 15, in primetime at 7 p.m. As the No. 1 seed, UCSD (35-14) faces sixth-seeded CCAA foe Sonoma State (27-16) for the first time in 2014. The first of three games Thursday pits third-seeded and 16th-ranked California Baptist (37-13) in its NCAA Championship debut against fourth-seeded Cal Poly Pomona (32-15) at 11 a.m. Second-seeded and ninth-ranked Chico State (39-13) meets fifth-seeded and 27th-ranked Dixie State (35-15) at 3 p.m.
Should UCSD win Thursday night, they would play again at 3 p.m. Friday against the loser between CBU and CPP. If the Tritons fall to the Seawolves, they would face an elimination contest Friday at 11 a.m. against the loser between Chico State and Dixie State. The West Regional championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m. on either Sunday, May 18, or Monday, May 19. That situation is contingent upon CBU's continued involvement in the tourney, as the Lancers are unable to play on Sundays. Regardless of when the final day of the regional takes place, an if-necessary nightcap would start at 6 p.m.
UCSD is 15-7 at home in 2014, and 13-3 in night games, including three straight triumphs under the lights en route to the CCAA championship last week. The Tritons are 7-5 against the five squads participating in this year's West Regional. They have gone a remarkable 21-4 over their last 25 to earn the right to host the event as the No. 1 seed.
The 48-team field for the 2014 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship is broken up into eight six-team regionals across the country. The eight regional winners head to Cary, N.C.
Single-day ticket prices are $8 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors 65 and older. Tournament passes can also be obtained at a rate of $25 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. Children aged seven and younger will be admitted free. Tickets will be available for purchase 60 minutes prior to the start of the first game each day. Parking permits are required on the UCSD campus on weekdays, and thus on Thursday and Friday for certain, and Monday should the regional advance into the extra day. They can be purchased at the machine near the entrance to the Triton Ballpark parking lot. No permits are needed to park on Saturday and Sunday.
All games of the West Regional will feature a live video stream, free of charge with no subscription required, and live stats. Craig Elsten of XX-1090 AM has the play-by-play audio call for the Tritons' games on Thursday night and Friday, as well as Saturday should they advance into the third day. Fellow UCSD alum and former pitcher (2007-08) Tim Strombel will handle a portion of the color commentary, and would take over for any Sunday activity the Tritons have. Fans can access live coverage for games involving UCSD from the Schedule/Results page. Finally, starting lineups, live between-inning updates and other in-game news and notes can be found by following Triton Baseball on the UCSD Athletics Twitter handle (@UCSDtritons).
WEST REGION HISTORY
UCSD will be making its seventh NCAA Division II Championship appearance, with a previous record of 15-12 (.566). The Tritons are back in the 48-team field after just a one-year hiatus following six successive berths from 2007-12. Triton Ballpark was previously the host of the West Regional in 2011, with Sonoma State advancing. UCSD finished 1-2 in its last appearance in 2012, losing both of its games to Dixie State in Keizer, Ore. The lone victory came against host Western Oregon that year. The Tritons last advanced out of the West Regional in 2010, with three consecutive wins over Hawai'i Pacific, Cal State Dominguez Hills and HPU in Compton at the MLB Urban Youth Academy. UCSD moved on to the NCAA Championship in Cary, N.C., and finished as the national runner-up, a program best. UCSD also advanced out of the West in 2009 in Keizer, Ore., with wins over Cal State Dominguez Hills, Western Oregon and Sonoma State. The Tritons fell in the national semifinal game to Emporia State that season to finish third overall.
BACK IN THE POSTSEASON
UCSD's 6-4 victory at SF State on Saturday, April 19, combined with Cal State Dominguez Hills wrapping up a 7-0 home shutout of Cal State East Bay, put the Tritons back in the CCAA Championship after a one-year hiatus, which came on the heels of four straight tourney titles. In fact, the Tritons had qualified for nine successive CCAA tournaments beginning with their debut in 2004. Heading into the final week of the regular season, UCSD needed to sweep Cal State San Bernardino and hope that Sonoma State and Chico State split their four games, in order to share the regular-season title with the Seawolves. After Chico won the first two games in Rohnert Park, Sonoma State came back to take the final two, including a come-from-behind 10-7 decision at neutral-site Raley Field in Sacramento on Sunday afternoon. The Tritons, however, had suffered a 4-3 defeat to CSUSB in their finale to cap a doubleheader split on Saturday, winning the series, 3-1, but falling narrowly short of Sonoma State in first.
UCSD appeared at No. 39 in the preseason edition of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's NCAA Division II top-40 poll released back on Dec. 24. The Tritons returned to the top 30 at No. 30 on March 17. UCSD got as high as No. 18 on April 14, and after a dip down to No. 25, returned to No. 18 in that poll last week. In the most recent rankings released on May 12, UCSD was slated No. 15 to mark its highest ranking of the season. The Tritons are at their highest spot of the year of No. 15 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) poll as well.
ABOUT THE SEAWOLVES
Sonoma State (27-16) earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Championship Tournament after winning the regular season CCAA title. The Seawolves will be making their 13th overall appearance in NCAA postseason play and have qualified for the second consecutive season. SSU holds a 27-25 (.519) all-time record in the NCAA Championship Tournament with its highest ever finish being third in 2008, the school’s first ever appearance at the Division II World Series. The Seawolves also advanced out of the West Regional in 2011. Sonoma State is 12-8 away from home in 2014, and is batting .276 as a team with a 3.20 ERA and .963 fielding percentage. Senior right-hander George Asmus (6-1), a Division I transfer from Washington who was pulled from his start at the CCAA Championship during pregame warm-ups, is the likely candidate to start Thursday’s game against UCSD. The All-CCAA First Team member ranks fifth nationally with a 1.06 ERA and has 54 strikeouts against just seven walks, with opponents hitting just .208 off of him. He holds a 0.85 WHIP, good for sixth nationally. Eric Ehlow, a junior catcher out of Saddleback College, is batting .328 with a team-best four home runs, 29 RBI and a .516 slugging percentage. John Goelz is in his 29th season in charge at Sonoma State with over 975 career wins.
UCSD leads the all-time series, 32-29. The teams have not met yet in 2014, as their four-game series in La Jolla Feb. 28-March 2 was cancelled due to poor weather. The Seawolves won three of four at home last year, with UCSD only salvaging the Sunday finale, 11-3. The 2012 season saw the Tritons take six out of a total of seven head-to-head match-ups, all in La Jolla. After sweeping the four-game regular-season set, UCSD faced off with Sonoma State three more times at home in the CCAA Championship, and ultimately retained its tournament trophy. UCSD's last series defeat to SSU prior to 2013 came in its 2009 visit to Rohnert Park, also by a 3-1 count. That set featured some remarkable pitching and great drama as all four contests were decided by a single run (1-2, 2-3, 2-3, 3-2).
ABOUT THE WILDCATS
No. 9 Chico State (39-13), the 2013 West Region runner-up, earned an at-large bid into the postseason after falling in the CCAA Championship title game to UCSD, 10-7. The Wildcats will be making their 17th appearance at the NCAA Championship, and are in search of their ninth West Region title. Chico State holds a 53-29 (.646) all-time record in the NCAA Championship, and is a two-time national champion (1997, 1999). The Wildcats currently sport a 16-8 record away from home on the year. Chico State tops the nation with a .979 fielding percentage and total double plays with 57. The pitching staff ranks eighth in the nation in team ERA at 2.57, third in total shutouts with nine and sixth in WHIP at 1.14. Senior right-hander Nick Baker (9-1, 1.56 ERA) and newcomer Brad Lohse (8-0, 1.46), both All-CCAA First Team members in 2014, lead the staff. Luke Barker (4-2, 2.36), an All-CCAA First Team honoree, ranks second in the nation with 14 saves. Offensively, the Wildcats are batting .294. Senior centerfielder and leadoff man Ryne Clark paces the team with a .338 batting average and 12 steals. Dave Taylor is in his eighth season in charge at Chico State.
UCSD holds a 35-31 edge over Chico State since 2001, when the Tritons moved up to the NCAA Division II and joined the CCAA. This includes a 23-13 advantage over the last 34 meetings since 2008. UCSD is 27-26 against Chico State in regular-season league contests, 8-3 at the CCAA Championship and 0-2 in NCAA Championship play. The Tritons are 15-14 in La Jolla, 15-15 in Chico and 5-2 at neutral venues, having split the four-game sets in each of the last three years. The Tritons hold a 4-2 mark against the Wildcats this season. During the regular season, the CCAA set was split at Triton Ballpark in La Jolla before UCSD earned a pair of wins at the conference tournament. UCSD beat the Wildcats in the opening round in Stockton with a late double from Garrett Tuck in the ninth and then earned its sixth conference title with three late runs to beat the Wildcats in the title game, 10-7. The Tritons, who defeated Chico State at the CCAA Championship in three straight seasons prior to last year, went 3-2 in all in 2012 with the five games taking place in La Jolla. The teams split their four-game series before UCSD posted a 9-1 victory on its way to a fourth straight CCAA Championship crown. In 2005, UCSD fought all the way back after losing its tournament opener at Chico's Nettleton Stadium to Cal Poly Pomona, to win its first CCAA tourney title. Needing to beat the host Wildcats twice on the final day, the Tritons did just that, taking a pair of narrow one-run decisions, both in extra innings, 5-4 in 11 and 7-6 in 12. The Tritons and Wildcats last faced off in the West Regional in 2008, when Chico State earned two wins and eliminated UCSD.
ABOUT THE LANCERS
No. 16 California Baptist (37-13) earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Championship Tournament after finishing second in the PacWest regular season standings. The NCAA announced last July that CBU had successfully completed its three-year transition period from the NAIA, and the Lancers are now active Division II members. The Lancers will be making their first ever appearance at the NCAA Championship Tournament. They began the season a perfect 15-0 and hold an 11-7 record away from home. CBU, who is 3-4 against this year’s regional field, own a 3.01 team ERA. Trevor Oaks (10-0) anchors the pitching staff with a 1.56 ERA, which ranks second in the Lancers’ single-season history. He ranks seventh nationally in strikeouts with 102. The offense holds a .313 batting average, led by Andy Crowley’s .406 batting average and 35 RBI. He ranks eighth nationally in hits with 86. The Lancer defense sports a .975 fielding percentage, good for fifth nationally. Adcock is in his 11th season at the helm at California Baptist.
CBU leads the all-time series, 31-26, over UCSD. The last meeting came on April 9 of this season, a decision won by the Lancers 8-4. UCSD had its season-best seven-game win streak snapped after surrendering a four-run first inning. Rahn was 3-for-4 with a walk and one RBI, while Lewis went 2-for-4 with a double, hit-by-pitch, two runs and one RBI for UCSD. For CBU, Oaks went five full innings, allowing three runs, two of them earned, on six hits, four walks and two hit-by-pitches to pick up the win. He struck out six. Prior to this season, the teams hadn’t met in a decade, since a 5-3 Triton victory in La Jolla on Feb. 17, 2004. UCSD and CBU played each other six times in the first four years that the Tritons were members of the NCAA Division II, between 2001-04. They split those meetings evenly in La Jolla, 3-3. UCSD's first-ever game as a Division II program was in fact against CBU, a 10-3 triumph on Jan. 30, 2001.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS
Cal Poly Pomona (32-15), currently receiving votes in the national poll, received an at-large invitation to the NCAA Championship Tournament after a 1-2 showing at the CCAA Championship. The Broncos will be making their ninth appearance in the NCAA postseason and first since 2011. CPP holds a 35-17 (.673) mark in the NCAA Championship Tournament and has won three national titles (1976, ’80, ’83). The Broncos are 19-14 in road games in 2014. Senior leftfielder David Armendariz, a Division I transfer from Cal Poly and the CCAA Most Valuable Player, powers the CPP offense with nine home runs and 53 RBI to go along with 10 steals on 15 attempts while batting at a .324 clip. He ranks 16th nationally in RBI per game (1.15). The Broncos are hitting .296 as a team, with a 3.04 ERA as a staff to rank 19th nationally. Junior Steven Farnworth is 6-2 with a 2.87 ERA and sophomore left-hander Max Bethell is 7-4 with a 3.58 ERA, while junior right-hander J.J. Franklin (2-2, 1.75) has a program-record eight saves. Randy Betten is in his fourth season in charge at Cal Poly Pomona.
UCSD leads the all-time series between these teams, 37-24, and holds a 19-10 advantage over the last 28 meetings since 2009. The two teams met last weekend at the CCAA Championship in an 11-inning thriller, as UCSD escaped with a 5-4 victory on a Nick La Face two-out RBI double into the left field corner. The teams have split their four-game sets in each of the past three years, with both sides 3-3 at home and 3-3 on the road. Cal Poly Pomona ended the Tritons' 2011 campaign at the NCAA West Regional held in La Jolla.
ABOUT THE RED STORM
No. 27 Dixie State (35-15) earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship Tournament for the third consecutive season, and third overall, after winning the PacWest regular season title. The Red Storm finished with a school record for wins inside of league play (26) to win the conference crown for the third title in six years. DSU holds a 3-4 (.429) all-time record in NCAA postseason play. Dixie State reached the West Region championship game in 2012, but fell to Chico State to end its season. The Red Storm has never advanced past the West Regional. DSU is 13-10 away from home this season. Tyler Blair powers the Red Storm offense with a .351 average, 11 home runs and 45 RBI, while Kevin Kline sports a team-high 54 RBI to go along with seven home runs. Blair ranks 17th nationally in home runs, while Kline ranks eighth nationally in doubles with 20. DSU hits .307 as a team, while the pitching staff holds a 3.73 ERA. John Conguy holds an 8-1 record and a 2.04 ERA in 10 starts, while Evan Parker has appeared in 20 games out of the ‘pen with a 1.25 ERA. He ranks seventh nationally with 12 saves. The DSU defense rolls out a .968 fielding percentage. Chris Pfatenhauer is in his second season at the head of the Red Storm baseball program.
Dixie State holds a 2-0 all-time series record against UCSD. Both meetings came at the 2012 West Regional in Keizer, Ore. In the opening game of the regional, DSU received a grand slam to power the Red Storm to a 7-3 victory. The Tritons were led by two hits and a home run from La Face in the loss, while Scott, a freshman at the time, took the loss. A game later, the Red Storm ended the Tritons’ season despite a late comeback in a 6-4 loss.
LAST TIME OUT
UCSD captured its sixth CCAA Tournament Championship last weekend in Stockton with three consecutive victories at Banner Island Ballpark. A late comeback earned UCSD a 5-3 win over Chico State in last Thursday’s conference tourney opener. Down, 3-2, the Tritons tied it in the eighth on Brandon Shirley’s solo homer and won it in the ninth on a two-run double by senior Garrett Tuck, his third hit of the night. Chad Reiser, who worked just a third of an inning, got credit for the win with senior Scott Zeman garnering his eighth save. The Tritons won a berth in the championship round by knocking off Cal Poly Pomona, 5-4, in a crazy, 11-inning affair Friday night. A three-run seventh inning had UCSD riding a 4-2 lead but the Broncos stormed back to tie it in the ninth. Then, in the 11th, senior Nick La Face’s third hit, a walk-off double that scored Erik Lewis, was decisive in the Tritons’ favor. Zeman, UCSD’s fifth hurler, went three innings and came away with his fourth victory. There were plenty of plot swings in Saturday’s final game against Chico State as well. Head coach Eric Newman’s squad was cruising along with a cushy, 6-0, edge when the Wildcats erupted for seven runs. The Tritons calmly knotted the score in the bottom of the sixth and regained the lead in the seventh when Lewis singled home freshman Jack Larsen. Junior Brett Levy had three hits and a walk, scoring twice and driving in three. La Face and Lewis chipped in with two knocks each. Right-hander Justin Donatella snagged his eighth win, coming out of the bullpen to throw the final 3.2 innings. La Face was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player and was joined on the all-tournament team by Donatella, Lewis, Levy, Tuck and Shirley. The sixth title is the most by any conference school, with the last Triton CCAA championship coming in 2012, Newman’s first year at the helm.
STAR OF THE MONTH HONOR FOR CRUZ
UCSD standout Troy Cruz was named late last week as a San Diego Hall of Champions Star of the Month for April. A sophomore and local product out of Chula Vista and Bonita Vista High School, Cruz hit a team-best .435 (20-for-46) with 12 runs, four doubles, two triples, 10 RBI, three steals and a team-high .609 slugging percentage over 12 starts in the month to lead UCSD to a 12-3 overall record, including a 10-2 mark in league play and 8-3 on the road. The two-way performer also went a perfect 4-0 in four mound starts with a 1.38 ERA over a team-best 26.0 innings pitched.
UNDEFEATED IN CCAA SETS
UCSD completed the 2014 CCAA slate last Saturday without suffering a league series loss, with three sweeps, two 3-1 wins, and four splits. The Tritons' four-game home series with regular-season champion Sonoma State was washed out entirely by inclement weather, Feb. 28-March 2. UCSD split its four-game sets with the other two participants of this week's CCAA Championship, over the first two weekends of the conference schedule, with Chico State at home and Cal Poly Pomona in a split-venue affair.
FACE ON FIRE
Nick La Face is having an incredible final year in a Triton uniform. He has played in 48 of 49 games, starting all 48, and is hitting a team-best .357, fifth in the CCAA. La Face leads the league in triples (5), walks (43), on-base percentage (.498) and co-leads in doubles (20), and is second in RBI (47) and slugging percentage (.567). He also paces UCSD in home runs (2-tied) and total bases (97). La Face has posted single-season career highs in batting average, runs, doubles, triples, RBI, walks, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. He had one career triple before belting a pair in the series vs. Chico State, one in the finale vs. Cal State Monterey Bay (3/16), one at SF State (4/17), and the latest to clear the bases and tie the game late vs. CSUSB (5/3). His two home runs have come at home against Chico State (2/15) and Azusa Pacific (4/26). La Face had reached base in 35 straight contests, the longest such streak by a Triton in 2014, when that streak was snapped by four flyouts in the April 18 nightcap at SF State (0-for-3, SF, RBI). He reached base in six straight plate appearances prior to a strikeout in the third inning of the doubleheader opener with CSUMB (3/15). Read a Triton Q&A with La Face here.
UCSD LEADING LEAGUE IN RUNS
UCSD is the No. 1 offensive team in the CCAA, having scored 333 times. That is an average of 6.8 runs per game over 49 contests. The Tritons have reached double figures in runs 13 times, with nine coming during this current stretch of 21 wins in their last 25. UCSD is 25-3 this year when it produces six runs or more in a game. Eight Tritons have tallied more than 20 runs in 2014, paced by CCAA leader Erik Lewis' 53, with five at 30-plus RBI. In fact, five of the top nine run producers in the conference are from UCSD. In possibly their biggest inning in program history, the Tritons recently used 11 hits to tally 11 runs in the ninth inning of a 17-3 rout in game one of an April 18 doubleheader at SF State.
LA FACE APPROACHING WALKS MARK
With a league-best 43 walks thus far on the year, Nick La Face has increased his career total to 130. He is 12 away from tying the program record for career walks of 142, set by Matt Cantele between 2006-09. La Face's 43 free passes are a new single-season best for the fifth-year senior, who walked 35 times in 2013. He is two walks from matching Aaron Bauman for the program's single-season record of 45 (2010). La Face ranks fourth in the entire nation in the NCAA Division II in walks per game, at 0.90, and is also fourth in total walks. La Face drew at least one walk (15 total) in 11 straight games prior to the finale with CSUMB, and had walked in another seven contests in a row entering the SF State series. La Face has earned a free pass a career-high three times on two occasions in 2014, with 10 multi-walk games in all.
UCSD's .974 fielding percentage (1263-533-48) ranks second in the CCAA, behind only Chico State (.979), and seventh in the entire country in Division II. Eleven times over the last 25 games in which the Tritons are 21-4, they have played error-free baseball. In the last 29 games, UCSD has committed more than one error on six occasions, four times in wins. The program record for single-season fielding percentage is .984 from 2010.
LA FACE CLIMBING MORE CAREER CHARTS
In addition to his pursuit of UCSD walk marks, Nick La Face is also tied in fourth, passing former teammate Danny Susdorf (57), on the program's all-time chart in doubles (59) and ninth in RBI (139). He is tied with Garrett Imeson (2006-09) in fourth on the doubles list.
UCSD has a current team ERA of 3.21. That number rates fourth in the CCAA and 27th nationally in the NCAA Division II. The Tritons are 17th in walks allowed per nine innings (2.46), 38th in hits allowed per nine innings (8.55), 15th in WHIP (1.22) and 27th in shutouts. UCSD's six shutouts this season are its most in the Division II era (since 2001). The 3.21 mark is the program's best under third-year pitching coach Rob Avila.
Justin Donatella (8-2) won seven of his nine conference starts, only taking a no-decision at Cal State East Bay (3/28) and a loss at SF State (4/17). He has the sixth-best ERA in the CCAA at 2.35, and is tied for second in wins and tied for sixth with 59 strikeouts. The sophomore right-hander put together a shutout stretch of 17.1 innings from Feb. 20 to a March 24 relief stint at Azusa Pacific. Donatella allowed two runs on four hits and three walks over 7.0 innings at No. 15 Cal Poly Pomona, retiring 11 straight Broncos at one point. He gave up one hit over six shutout innings in an 8-1 victory over No. 12 Chico State (2/14), walking two with six strikeouts while outdueling Chico State ace and then-reigning CCAA Pitcher of the Week Nick Baker. Donatella set down 10 batters in a row during one stretch. That win was his second as a college pitcher and first as a starter. At home on March 6, Donatella put it all together for 6.2 no-hit frames and 8.1 shutout innings in all, setting a new program record for the Division II era with 13 strikeouts while scattering three hits without a walk. He achieved a new career long in each of his first four appearances of 2014. The big 6-foot-6 product of Saugus who saw just 13.2 innings of work as a freshman in 2013 (11.20 ERA), wrapped up the exhibition season with nine shutout frames over two starts with six hits allowed, all singles, no walks, and 14 strikeouts.
GET ON BASE THE TRITON WAY
UCSD ranks first in the CCAA in walks (251) by a wide margin and second in hit-by-pitches (79), behind only Chico State (83) in the latter category. Sonoma State is closest in walks, way behind with 173. Tritons Nick La Face (43), Erik Lewis (40) and Justin Rahn (32) are 1-2-3 in the league individually in bases on balls. UCSD is fourth nationally in the category. Fourteen different Tritons have been hit at least once, led by Michael Mann with 14 and Brett Levy with 12. Mann is the co-leader in the conference, with Levy tied for fifth.
CRUZ DOING IT ALL
Triton sophomore Troy Cruz has been a jack of all trades once again this season. The 2014 All-CCAA First Team selection at utility is the only Triton who has started all 49 games, at either third base (33), pitcher (12) or designated hitter (four). UCSD is 7-2 in league games in which he has been the starting pitcher (9-3 overall), including seven straight wins prior to the loss to CSUSB (5/3). In his first mound start of the season on Feb. 16, Cruz went 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. He threw seven more innings without a decision against Cal State Monterey Bay (3/16) to help the Tritons gain another series split. 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). He then twirled the first nine-inning complete game by a Triton since Ryan Goodbrand on May 18, 2012, to clinch the series victory at Cal State East Bay (3/30). The nine innings and six strikeouts that day both marked career bests. Cruz produced his second career seven-inning shutout at Cal State L.A. (4/5), and threw another seven effective frames in a victory at Cal State Stanislaus (4/13). He accounted for the Tritons' lone complete game in 2013, and has four for his career. Cruz hit in the leadoff position in each of the first eight games, and is now batting .331 with 32 runs, 11 doubles, three triples, 38 RBI and a team-best nine steals on 11 attempts. He has also made two relief appearances.
UCSD overturned a three-run deficit to come from behind and win in four of nine games between April 3-13. To begin their split-venue series with Cal State L.A., on April 3 and April 4, the Tritons trailed 3-0 before scoring six and four unanswered runs, respectively. They posted a four-run seventh to take a 5-3 lead in the first meeting, before striking for three runs to walk off in the ninth inning the following night. At Cal State Stanislaus, UCSD opened the April 12 doubleheader with a 5-4 triumph after trailing 4-1 heading into the ninth. Garrett Tuck's 10th-inning RBI single proved to be the winner. The Tritons fell behind 3-0 after four innings in the Sunday finale on April 13 before a four-run sixth spurred them on to a 4-3 victory. On May 3, UCSD trailed 4-0 at home to CSUSB when it struck for five in the seventh en route to a 6-4 success.
Senior Justin Rahn is second on the team with a .348 batting average. He is second on the team and tied for third in the league with 41 RBI. Rahn tops the UCSD chart with 62 hits and two home runs (tied), and is second with 12 doubles and 84 total bases. He is third in the CCAA in on-base percentage (.466), eighth in hitting and 10th in slugging (.472). Rahn is one of three Tritons to appear in all 49 contests, with 48 starts in the outfield. He has two of eight UCSD home runs in 2014, both coming at home. Rahn homered on Opening Day in the nightcap vs. Holy Names (2/2), a two-run shot to center in the second, and added another two-run blast that cleared the scoreboard in right in the nightcap vs. Azusa Pacific (4/26). Rahn reached base in each of the first 23 games prior to the series opener at Cal State East Bay (3/28). His recently-snapped hit streak of 15 games is the longest by a Triton in 2014, and the best of his UCSD career.
E-LEW PROVIDING A BIG SPARK
Erik Lewis has been a revelation in his first season at UCSD. The former Long Beach State (2011-12) and Fullerton College (2013) player has appeared in all 49 games, starting 48 at second base. He is third on the team with a .345 batting average, and ranks first in the CCAA by 14 runs with 53. Lewis is ninth in the league in hitting, and second in both walks (40) and on-base percentage (.481) behind teammate Nick La Face. Lewis has a team-best 19 multi-hit games (tied), including one four-hit effort. Defensively, he has been charged with just five errors in 285 defensive chances for a .982 fielding percentage, and has contributed to 42 double plays. He handled 103 plays in a row cleanly before his first error on March 13, and 111 straight until his second on April 19.
UCSD has four walk-off wins in 2014. In the first game of a Feb. 22 doubleheader with Cal Poly Pomona, UCSD produced its first such triumph, 6-5, as Garrett Tuck's single to center drove in Troy Cruz from second base. Gradeigh Sanchez had stolen home as a pinch-runner to level the score just moments before as the Tritons erased the 5-4 ninth-inning deficit. Then in the March 16 series finale with Cal State Monterey Bay, Sanchez provided the pinch-hit, two-out single through the left side of the infield on an 0-2 pitch to plate Brett Levy from second base in the 4-3 triumph. Watch it here. Freshman centerfielder Jack Larsen's two-run single up the middle with one away completed a three-run ninth and comeback from a 3-0 deficit as UCSD edged Cal State L.A., 4-3. Watch that hit here. The final walk-off win came at the CCAA Championship in Stockton on May 9 against Cal Poly Pomona in the 11th inning to produce a 5-4 win. Nick La Face sent a two-out RBI double into the left field corner to score a diving Erik Lewis and put UCSD in the title game. Watch the celebration here.
HE'S THE MANN
In his first season at UCSD following a transfer from Diablo Valley College, junior Michael Mann has made an immediate impact on the program, starting 46 of 49 games at first base. He is fourth on the team and tied for seventh in the league with 37 RBI. Mann is hitting .277 with 30 runs, eight doubles, one home run and a CCAA-best 14 hit-by-pitches. Mann has both a four-hit game, coming in the opener of a doubleheader at Cal State Dominguez Hills (3/8), and a pair of four-RBI performances. The first was in the nightcap of that same twin bill, with the latter to open the double dip at Cal State L.A. (4/5). His first home run in a Triton uniform came in the series opener at Cal State East Bay (3/28).
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 as UCSD held on for a 4-2 victory. 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 50 double plays in 49 games in 2014, 10th nationally in Division II. They are 13th in double plays per game (1.02).
DOUBLE DIP CYCLE FOR SANCHEZ
Sophomore outfielder Gradeigh Sanchez hit for the cycle during the March 28 doubleheader at Cal State East Bay. He led off the opener with an inside-the-park home run, marking the first round-tripper of his college career. Sanchez then added a leadoff triple in the seven-inning nightcap and a fourth-inning double to complete the feat, with a single in each contest. Having entered that series with one career extra-base hit in the form of a double on March 15, Sanchez now has four. During his career-best six-game hit streak from March 16-30, Sanchez was 9-for-21 (.429) with eight runs, three RBI, a double, a triple, a home run, five walks and a stolen base. He also played a key role in the first two walk-off victories for the Tritons in 2014.
STANISLAUS SERIES SUPERLATIVES
UCSD drew 30 walks in 35 innings played in its four-game sweep at Cal State Stanislaus, April 11-13 ... The Triton bullpen threw 11 complete innings of shutout baseball (6 H, 1 BB, 12 SO) over the four contests, courtesy of Javier Carrillo, Jr. (1.0), Dean Friedberg (1.0), David Hart (4.0), Dan Kolodin (1.0), Chad Rieser (1.0) and Scott Zeman (3.0) ... Most impressive among that group was Hart, who retired 12 of 13 batters faced in his three appearances, with five on strikes and six more on ground balls ... Blake Fassler needed just 54 pitches to get through five effective innings in his victorious start in the nightcap of the Saturday doubleheader (4/12).
GOLDEN EAGLES SWEPT ASIDE
UCSD swept a split-venue, four-game series from Cal State L.A., April 3-5. The Tritons overturned 3-0 deficits in each of the first two primetime meetings in La Jolla, winning 6-3 and then 4-3 in walk-off fashion. They scored three in the ninth in the latter affair, capped by a two-run single by Jack Larsen. UCSD then took both ends of the Saturday doubleheader in Los Angeles. A season-high 19 hits led to a 13-2 demolition in the opener. Troy Cruz then tossed his second career seven-inning shutout in the nightcap as the Tritons won, 2-0. It marked the second of three CCAA sweeps for UCSD in 2014.
LA FACE NAMED CCAA PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Nick La Face was selected on March 10 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 was the second Triton to earn a weekly conference honor after Justin Rahn on Feb. 3.
DIVISION II ERA 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. UCSD has six shutouts in 2014, the others a 9-0 decision vs. Holy Names on Opening Day (2/2), a 12-0 road rout of Cal State East Bay (3/30), a 2-0 success in seven innings at Cal State L.A. (4/5), and a 16-0 destruction of Azusa Pacific (4/26) at home.
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.
The Tritons are 24-1 when out-hitting the opposition, the lone loss coming at SF State, 7-6 on April 17, when they managed 13 hits to just nine by the Gators ... 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 16 of his 21 starting assignments as a Triton, including eight of 12 in 2014 ... Fassler retired 16 straight SF State batters from the first to the sixth in a losing effort in game two of an April 18 doubleheader on the road... Junior left-hander Trevor Scott threw his first career complete game in the March 28 doubleheader nightcap at Cal State East Bay, tossing the full seven frames ... Redshirt freshman outfielder Brandon Shirley laced a 2-2 pitch down the left field line for a double in the eighth inning of game one of the Opening Day doubleheader with Holy Names (2/1) to punctuate the first at-bat of his Triton career ... 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 consisted 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 had 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 played 16 of its first 21 at home, before closing with 19 of 25 on the road, going 14-5. For the second year in a row, the CCAA Championship was 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 took place May 8-11, with UCSD earning a record sixth banner (2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014).
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.
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. Mann is from Diablo Valley College. Tyler Howsley, Jack Larsen and Christian Leung are three 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, who redshirted at Utah in 2012, needed 12 pitches to retire the first three batters he faced over three appearances, with two on strikes. Eight newcomers are taking a redshirt year.
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 94-62 record (72-44 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 189-134 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. His Tritons won a record sixth conference tourney banner this past Saturday night in Stockton, to again nab the CCAA's automatic berth into the NCAA Championship. Newman has now led the Tritons to two CCAA banners and two NCAA Championship appearances in his three years, as well as two 30-win campaigns. Newman previously spent three years at the helm of Dallas Baptist University from 2004-07.
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Should UCSD advance past the West Regional at home this weekend, the NCAA Championship is up next in Cary, N.C., May 24-31, with the final eight teams competing in a double-elimination format for the 2014 national title.