Having just produced its second four-game sweep of a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series, No. 24 UC San Diego continues a season-long 11-game road stretch with five contests this week. The Tritons first make a short day trip to Riverside for a primetime non-conference tilt between nationally-ranked West Region foes at No. 27 California Baptist on Wednesday, April 9. First pitch at Totman Stadium is set for 6 p.m. UCSD will then bus to Turlock on Thursday, resuming CCAA activity with a four-game series at Cal State Stanislaus over the weekend. That opener is also at night, under the new lights at Warrior Baseball Field at 6 p.m.
At 21-10 overall and 17-7 in the CCAA, UCSD is now tied for third place in the league standings with No. 7 Cal Poly Pomona. The Tritons begin the week as winners of seven straight, their longest streak of the season and best in the CCAA at the moment. Last week's sweep over Cal State L.A. earned UCSD a full five-game cushion for the league's fourth and final playoff spot. The top four teams in the final regular-season standings will once again make up the field for the CCAA Championship, to be held for a second straight year at Stockton's Banner Island Ballpark, May 8-11. The Tritons are 14-4 over their last 18 games and 9-4 on the road in 2014.
All UCSD home games at Triton Ballpark feature a live online video stream and live stats. Weeknight CCAA contests additionally have audio commentary, provided again by former Triton pitcher Tim Strombel (2007-08). The audio/video is free, but does require registration and a login. Some road contests will also have video, including Wednesday night's game at CBU, with audio commentary (5:50 p.m. air), for a one-time payment of $3.95. The four games in Turlock over the weekend will have online audio free of charge. 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).
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, and moved up one spot to No. 29 on March 31. This week, UCSD advanced another five positions to No. 24. The Tritons are also No. 24 in their first appearance of the year in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) poll, and have gradually moved up from No. 10 (preseason) to No. 3 in the NCBWA West Region listing. Wednesday night's opponent, CBU, is No. 27 in the CBN poll, receiving votes from the NCBWA, and No. 4 regionally.
ABOUT THE LANCERS
No. 27 California Baptist (26-10, 11-9 PacWest) is coming off of back-to-back 3-1 series victories over Pacific West Conference foes Fresno Pacific and Holy Names. Despite the series win, the Lancers dropped from No. 18 to No. 27 nationally, and swapped places with UCSD in the latest NCBWA West Region poll, falling back to No, 4 while the Tritons are now No. 3. 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 with postseason eligibility. They began the season a perfect 15-0 before getting swept in a home PacWest doubleheader by Dixie State. CBU is 7-1 against CCAA opposition in 2014 and 17-5 at home. Sophomore right-handed ace Trevor Oaks (6-0, 1.99 ERA, 72 SO) is slated to start Wednesday night on the mound for the Lancers, who are led offensively by junior centerfielder and leadoff man Andy Crowley (.383, 36 R, 11 2B, 24 RBI). Gary Adcock is in his 11th season at the helm at California Baptist.
CBU leads the all-time series, 30-26, but the teams have not 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, and not since. 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 WARRIORS
Cal State Stanislaus (11-21, 5-18 CCAA) is coming off of a 3-1 series loss at Cal State Dominguez Hills last weekend, and is mired in last place in the 11-team league. The Warriors won the opener, 3-2, before dropping the next three to the Toros. Despite not translating into results, CSUS boasts the top two individual batting averages currently in the CCAA. Junior outfielder and leadoff hitter Skippy Ferreria (.402) and junior catcher Marcus Mastrobuoni (.398) are the only two players ahead of Triton senior Nick La Face (.379) in that category. The Warriors have a .287 batting average, 4.51 ERA and .959 fielding percentage as a team. They are 9-10 in Turlock in 2014. Kenny Leonesio is in his 12th season as the Cal State Stanislaus head coach.
UCSD leads the all-time series between these teams, 35-23. The Tritons have taken the season series in each of the last two years, three games to one. That included the 2012 set in Turlock, with the Warriors narrowly salvaging the seven-inning finale, 7-6, after UCSD had clinched the win by final scores of 3-2, 11-4 and 12-8. The lone loss snapped a 15-game win streak for the Tritons against Stanislaus going back to May 9, 2008. UCSD swept in 2011 in La Jolla, 4-2, 2-1, 2-1 and 18-1. Last year featured a pair of shutouts, 4-0 and 3-0 (seven innings), an 8-7 Triton triumph in the finale, and a 4-3 loss in 10 innings.
LAST TIME OUT
Last week, UCSD swept a split-venue, four-game series from Cal State L.A. 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 Saturday's doubleheader in Los Angeles. A season-high 19 hits led to a season-high run total in 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.
FACE ON FIRE
Nick La Face is having an incredible final year in a Triton uniform. He has played in 30 of 31 games, starting all 30, and is hitting .379, third-best in the CCAA. La Face leads the league in triples (3), walks (29), on-base percentage (.529) and slugging percentage (.583), and is second in doubles (12) and tied for third in RBI (27). He also paces UCSD in hits (39), home runs (tied-1) and total bases (60). La Face had one career triple before belting a pair in the series with Chico State and adding a third in the finale with Cal State Monterey Bay (3/16). His only home run of 2014 so far came at home against Chico State (2/15). He reached base in six straight plate appearances prior to a strikeout in the third inning of the doubleheader opener with CSUMB (3/15). La Face has reached base in 28 consecutive games, the longest such streak by a Triton in 2014, and leads the team with 13 multi-hit efforts. La Face drew at least one walk (15 total) in 11 straight games prior to the series finale with CSUMB, and has walked a career-high three times on two occasions. He is second in the country in walks per game (0.97) and 12th in total walks.
Justin Donatella (5-1) achieved a new career long in each of his first four appearances of 2014, and has won five of his six conference starts, only taking a no-decision at Cal State East Bay (3/28). He has the fifth-best ERA in the CCAA at 1.47, and is sixth with 42 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 then-12th-ranked 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. Donatella was the individual story of the exhibition season. 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 his preseason with nine shutout frames over two starts with six hits allowed, all singles, no walks, and 14 strikeouts.
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 31 games, at either third base (20), designated hitter (four) or pitcher (seven). He has also made two relief appearances. 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 threw 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. Most recently, Cruz twirled his second career seven-inning shutout at Cal State L.A. (4/5). He accounted for the Tritons' lone complete game in 2013, and now has four for his career. Cruz hit in the leadoff position in each of the first eight games, and is now batting .276 with 24 RBI.
E-LEW PROVIDING A BIG SPARK
Erik Lewis has been a revelation thus far at second base in his first season at UCSD. The former Long Beach State and Fullerton College player has appeared in all 31 games, starting 30. He is hitting .324 and ranks first in the CCAA in runs (30), second in walks (25), and third in on-base percentage (.458). Defensively, Lewis has been charged with just a single error in 178 defensive chances for a .994 fielding percentage, and had a hand in 27 double plays.
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 the series with one career extra-base hit in the form of a double on March 15, Sanchez now has four. During his current six-game hit streak, Sanchez is 9-for-21 (.429) with eight runs, three RBI, one double, one triple, one home runfive walks and a stolen base. He also played a key role in the first two walk-off victories for the Tritons in 2014.
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 30 of 31 games at first base and leading the team with 28 RBI and eight multi-RBI games. Mann, who is now up to second in the CCAA in RBI, is hitting at a .319 clip (36-for-113) with 15 runs, six doubles, one home run and a team-best nine hit-by-pitches. He missed just the series opener at Cal Poly Pomona (2/20). Mann has both a four-hit game, coming in the opener of a doubleheader at Cal State Dominguez Hills on March 8, and a pair of four-RBI performances. The first was in the nightcap of that same twin bill, with the latter just recently to open the double dip at Cal State L.A. on April 5. His first home run in a Triton uniform came in the series opener at Cal State East Bay (3/28).
WELL VERSED IN GETTING PLUNKED
Through 31 games, UCSD players have been hit 51 times by opposing pitchers, and now rank second behind Chico State (53). UCSD ranks 29th nationally in the category. Thirteen different Tritons have been hit at least once, led by Michael Mann with nine and Brett Levy with eight. Mann is tied with three others for second in the conference.
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 31 double plays through 31 games in 2014, ranking 30th nationally in Division II. They are 14th in double plays per game.
UCSD has three 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. Most recently, 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.
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 now has five 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) and a 2-0 success in seven innings at Cal State L.A. (4/5).
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.
UCSD is 15-2 in 2014 when tallying six runs or more, and a perfect 7-0 when scoring in double figures ... UCSD has five shutouts as a team, its most since 2010 ... The Tritons are a perfect 17-0 when achieving at least as many hits in a game as their opponent ... UCSD has yet to lose a league series in 2014, with two sweeps, a 3-1 win, and three splits ... Justin Rahn reached base in each of the first 23 games prior the series opener at East Bay (3/28) ... 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 14 of his 17 starting assignments as a Triton, including six of eight in 2014 ... 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 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).
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. 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 needed 12 pitches to retire the first three batters he faced over three appearances, with two on strikes. Eight newcomers are slated to redshirt.
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 80-58 record (63-41 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 175-130 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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Following this week's activity, UCSD concludes a season-long 11-game road stretch with a four-game CCAA series at San Francisco State, April 17-19, ahead of Easter Sunday.