Photo by: Mark Cooley/Sideline Studios
The Tritons begin their quest to get back atop the CCAA this Friday night.
Rivalry Week: No. 39 UCSD, No. 12 Chico State Open Conference Slate at Triton Ballpark
Release: Wednesday 02/12/2014 

Games 6-9
vs. No. 12 Chico State (4-1, 0-0 CCAA)
Friday, Feb. 14 • 6 p.m.
Triton Ballpark • La Jolla
Live Video/Audio • Live Audio • Live Stats

Saturday, Feb. 15 • 12 p.m. (DH)
Triton Ballpark • La Jolla
Live Video • Live Audio • Live Stats

Sunday, Feb. 16 • 11 a.m.
Triton Ballpark • La Jolla
Live Video • Live Audio • Live Stats

The 39th-ranked UC San Diego baseball team opens the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) portion of its 2014 schedule at home this weekend against 2013 West Region runner-up and 12th-ranked league favorite Chico State. The rivals will contest the opener of a marquee four-game series in primetime on Friday, Feb. 14, with first pitch under the lights at Triton Ballpark scheduled for 6 p.m. Following a noon doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 15, the set will conclude with an 11 a.m. finale on Sunday, Feb. 16. The nightcap of Saturday's twin bill will be a shortened seven-inning affair per the CCAA format again this year, with approximately a 30-minute break in between games. Probable pitching match-ups for this weekend were not available.

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.

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), beginning with the conference opener against No. 12 Chico State this Friday night, Feb. 14. The audio/video is free, but does require registration and a login. In addition this week, longtime Chico State play-by-play announcer and sports director at Chico's Newstalk1290 KPAY, Michael Baca, will have the audio call of all four games online through Stretch Internet. 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).

The CCAA is holding its annual canned food drive competition during the month of February and all league schools will be collecting canned goods to donate to local service organizations. UC San Diego will once again be participating on behalf of the San Diego Food Bank. Donation bins are currently located in the lobby of the Intercollegiate Athletics suite through Feb. 24. In addition, bins will be present at the following home events:
• Friday, Feb. 14 - men's volleyball vs. USC
• Saturday, Feb. 15 - men's volleyball vs. Pepperdine
• Friday, Feb. 21 - women's/men's basketball vs. San Francisco State
• Saturday, Feb. 22 - baseball vs. Cal Poly Pomona
• Saturday, Feb. 22 - softball vs. Cal State East Bay
• Saturday, Feb. 22 - women's/men's basketball vs. Sonoma State

No. 12 Chico State, the 2013 West Region runner-up and 2014 preseason CCAA favorite, is 4-1 with four straight wins since a season-opening home loss to Fresno Pacific, 4-3, on Feb. 1. Friday will mark the Wildcats' first road date of the new season. They come off of a three-game series sweep over Azusa Pacific last Thursday and Friday that was altered by some bad weather. Chico State won the games by the scores of 6-2, 1-0 and 3-1, and have allowed just eight runs, seven of them earned, over 38 innings this season for a CCAA-best team ERA of just 1.66. Senior right-hander Nick Baker (1-0, 1.29 ERA), Chico State's lone All-CCAA First Team selection in 2013, is the reigning CCAA Pitcher of the Week. Offensively, the Cats (.252) and Tritons (.251) have almost identical batting averages through five games. Senior centerfielder and leadoff man Ryne Clark paces the team with a .412 batting average and .474 on-base percentage. Dave Taylor is in his eighth season in charge at Chico State.

UCSD holds a tight 31-29 edge over Chico State since 2001 when the Tritons moved up to the NCAA Division II and joined the CCAA. This includes a 19-11 advantage over the last 30 meetings since 2008. UCSD is 25-24 against Chico State in regular-season league contests, 6-3 at the CCAA Championship and 0-2 in NCAA Championship play. The Tritons are 13-12 in La Jolla, 15-14 in Chico and 3-2 at neutral venues, having last split four games at the Cats' Nettleton Stadium in 2013 when Chico State was ranked No. 3 nationally. The Tritons, who defeated Chico State at the CCAA Championship in three straight seasons prior to last year, went 3-2 in 2012 with all 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 Nettleton 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.

UCSD is coming off of a 2-1 series loss in a rare non-conference set with league rival Cal State L.A. this past weekend. The teams split the Saturday doubleheader in La Jolla, with the Tritons suffering a two-hit shutout, 2-0, at the hands of a trio of Golden Eagle pitchers. Junior left-hander Trevor Scott tossed four clean frames in relief after Justin Donatella (0-1) made his first start of 2014. UCSD rallied from a 3-0 first-inning deficit and scored at least one run in seven of eight turns at-bat to take the nine-inning nightcap, 9-3. Blake Fassler (2-0) was in control over four scoreless frames after the Tritons allowed the three unearned scores in the first and earned his second win in as many starts to begin his senior campaign. In Sunday's rubber game at Reeder Field in Los Angeles, UCSD's furious rally after surrendering a seven-run fourth fell just short. The Tritons scored six times in the eighth to make it 9-8 and put runners at first and second in the ninth, but were unable to push across the tying score.

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.

Justin Rahn's stellar Opening Day netted him the season's first CCAA Baseball Player of the Week award on Monday. 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.

Senior right-hander Blake Fassler rarely walks opposing batters. The Rocklin native and transfer from Diablo Valley College tossed five innings in his 2014 debut on Feb. 2, striking out six without a walk in earning the win. In 2013, Fassler made nine starts among 17 appearances in all. After joining the starting rotation on March 2, he produced a season-best streak of 21.1 consecutive innings without issuing a base on balls before it was snapped in his final frame on March 29. Fassler walked nine in 64.2 innings, against 50 strikeouts, for a stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.56. He has gone at least 5.0 innings in 10 of his 11 starting assignments as a Triton. Fassler only for the first time as a starter for UCSD against Cal State L.A. in his most recent stint on Feb. 8, allowed more than one walk, issuing two. He had given up zero or one walk in the previous 10 starts.

UCSD appeared in the No. 39 position in the preseason edition of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's NCAA Division II top-40 poll, released back on Dec. 24. The Tritons did not make it onto any of the other three national rankings in Division II college baseball. UCSD is No. 10 in the preseason National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) West Region listing. This weekend's opponent, Chico State, is No. 12 in the land (CBN) and No. 1 in the West. The Cats are also rated No. 8 nationally by NCBWA (preseason) and No. 24 by (Feb. 9).

UCSD's 37-player 2014 roster features 18 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 Blake Fassler and Dan Kolodin reprise their roles in the rotation. Cruz should begin the year as the Triton closer, with senior right-hander Scott Zeman and junior left-hander Chad Rieser also available out of the bullpen.

There are 17 players new to the Triton roster. Junior transfers Erik Lewis and Michael Mann have started each of their first five games at UCSD 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 and Christian Leung were two true freshmen who earned their collegiate debuts on Feb. 2. Howsley has seen time at shortstop, while Leung has earned all five starts in right field. The only new arm to see the mound this season has been Eric Moersen, a sophomore left-handed specialist who transferred from the University of Utah and has needed seven pitches to retire the only two batters he has faced. Eight newcomers are slated to redshirt.

UCSD is 2-1 in season openers under Eric Newman and 11-3 since moving to Division II status for 2001 ... UCSD is 1-1 in CCAA openers with Newman in charge, with a 4-1 loss to Chico State in La Jolla on Feb. 17, 2012 ... The Tritons are 6-7 in CCAA openers all-time (since 2001), and 7-1 with five splits in sets to begin the league season ... This week marks the second time UCSD opens the CCAA slate against Chico State, with the teams splitting a pair of four-game sets, both in La Jolla, in 2010 and 2012 after the Tritons dropped the opener each year ... 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 50 regular-season games, including 26 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 will play 20 of its first 25 at home, but close 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).

Eric Newman is in his third season as the UCSD head coach. The 2012 CCAA Coach of the Year has a 62-50 record (46-34 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 157-122 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. He previously spent three years at the helm of Dallas Baptist University from 2004-07.

UCSD went 3-0 in three January exhibitions at home in the 2014 lead-up. UCSD throttled Cal State San Marcos, 19-0, on Jan. 21, and rolled past Vanguard 13-0 exactly one week later. CSUSM was rated No. 16 in the NAIA preseason projection. The Tritons previously blanked San Diego Christian, No. 22 in the NAIA, 4-0 in its first warm-up tilt back on Jan. 17. All told, UCSD scored 36 runs while its pitching staff allowed only 13 total hits and three walks against 35 strikeouts over 27 shutout frames in the three games. The individual story of the exhibition season was Justin Donatella. 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 complete frames over two starts with six hits allowed, all singles, no walks, and 14 strikeouts.

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The going doesn't get any easier for UCSD after opening the conference slate against league favorite Chico State this weekend. The Tritons next face a four-game showdown with a Cal Poly Pomona squad that has started its campaign with a perfect 6-0 mark. The teams will play single games at Scolinos Field in Pomona on Thursday, Feb. 20, and Friday, Feb. 21, both beginning at 2 p.m. The series will conclude with a doubleheader at Triton Ballpark on Saturday, Feb. 22, also at 2 p.m.


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