LA JOLLA, Calif. - It’s as it should be. UC San Diego. Chico State. For the 2014 West Region crown and a trip to Cary, N.C., for the NCAA Division II Championship.
Fifteenth-ranked UCSD produced 10 runs over the first three frames and handily defeated No. 16 California Baptist University, 14-5, in an elimination game Saturday night at the 2014 NCAA Division II Championship West Regional at Triton Ballpark.
The top-seeded Tritons had started the day with a narrow 6-5 defeat to ninth-ranked No. 2 seed Chico State to get pushed to the brink of the end of their season.
UCSD thus earned yet another rematch with California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) rival Chico State on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the championship game. The Tritons need to beat the Wildcats twice in order to move on, with a ninth and final meeting between the sides slated for a 6 p.m. start Sunday should it be needed.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said UCSD head coach Eric Newman about the match-up. “It’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
The Tritons are 4-3 in 2014 against the ‘Cats, including two wins just a week ago at the CCAA Championship in Stockton en route to a record sixth banner.
UCSD surrendered three runs in the bottom of the seventh to fall to Chico State, 6-5, in the winner’s bracket to start things off on Saturday.
In a well-played battle of CCAA rivals facing each other for the seventh time in 2014, the Wildcats (42-13) prevailed to move into the West Region championship.
The Tritons led 5-3 before Chico State’s outburst in the seventh. The Wildcats tallied four hits, with the game-winner coming on a slowly-chopped infield single from Connor Huesers, as the Wildcat outfielder’s headfirst slide narrowly beat Triton reliever Chad Rieser to the bag. Earlier in the frame, Ryan McClellan’s first-pitch drive out to right center was almost caught in spectacular fashion by a diving Brandon Shirley, but the ball nicked off the redshirt freshman rightfielder’s glove for a game-tying single. With the bases full after the Huesers single, Rieser came back to get Danny Miller looking at strike three to keep the deficit at one at 6-5.
In the ninth, with UCSD the designated visitor courtesy of a postgame coin flip on Friday night, the Tritons got a leadoff single from Erik Lewis to bring up the heart of the order. After two flyouts, Troy Cruz provided an infield single on a 1-2 count, but a groundout finally ended it.
The win was credited to Robert Hook (7-2), who entered in relief, while Luke Barker sealed the win with a two-inning save for his third of the regional.
UCSD sent 11 men to the plate and pounded out seven hits in scoring seven early runs in the second inning of its elimination game with CBU.
The real story, however, was Kolodin, who got word during the afternoon after the Chico State loss, that he would take the hill against the Lancers, having in fact taken the loss against the ‘Cats with recording an out.
One time through the order would have been plenty. Kolodin (3-2) went six complete innings, allowing a single run on six singles and three walks, striking out four. That run came in the opening frame when the Lancers loaded the bases with just one out, before the junior right-hander shut the door with minimal damage on a sacrifice fly. He retired the side in order in the third.
Back-to-back infield singles, the latter a perfect bunt by Cruz, and Michael Mann’s league-leading 15th hit-by-pitch, filled the bags full of Tritons in the third. After a strikeout, UCSD tied it on a bizarre play in which Larsen looped what appeared to be a single into center field, only for Cruz to get cut down at third after having to hold up to see if the ball would indeed drop. That still brought in Rahn.
The key hit of the frame and the game came moments later when Nick La Face cleared the bases with a three-run double that skipped off the wall in right center.
Shirley finished with a career-best four hits while also matching his best with three RBI.
Triton Notes: Troy Cruz is the only Triton to start all 53 games, with 13 coming on the mound ... It was the 19th career pitching start for Cruz ... Erik Lewis extended his reached-base streak to 22 games and hit streak to 10, both current team bests ... Lewis reached base a total of eight times in 10 plate appearances on the day ... Justin Rahn’s RBI single in the fourth inning of game one gave him 50 for the year, a career best ... Since the start of April, Garrett Tuck is hitting .373 (28-for-75) with 15 runs, two doubles, triple and 17 RBI … The Tritons are 18-8 at home in 2014 and 24-5 over their last 29 ... They have reached double figures in runs 15 times, winning every game, and are 27-3 when tallying at least six runs in a contest ... The Tritons moved to 18-13 all-time at the NCAA Division II Championship, making their seventh appearance ... UCSD evened its record against CBU this year to 1-1, and is 4-3 against Chico State heading into Sunday’s activity.