On the heels of having had an entire California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series washed out by rare, severe weather in San Diego last weekend against Sonoma State, the Tritons are chomping at the bit to get back out on the diamond this week. UCSD and league foe Cal State Dominguez Hills will contest a four-game, split-venue set beginning with single meetings in primetime at Triton Ballpark on Thursday, March 6, and Friday, March 7, both at 6 p.m. The teams will then head up to Carson for a Saturday doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. at Toro Field. The Tritons are 7-6 overall and an even 4-4 in the CCAA, while the Toros come in Thursday at 9-5 overall and 4-3 in league play. UCSD is coming off of back-to-back splits against then-12th-ranked Chico State and then-15th-ranked Cal Poly Pomona prior to last weekend's rain. The Tritons are 6-4 at home and 1-2 on the road in 2014.
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. Please be aware of the danger of foul balls when parking vehicles.
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), including this Thursday and Friday night against CSUDH. The audio/video is free, but does require registration and a login. Some road contests will also have video, though Saturday's doubleheader will not. 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).
ABOUT THE TOROS
Cal State Dominguez Hills (9-5, 4-3 CCAA) was able to get in three of its four games against No. 16 Cal Poly Pomona in the last week, with the Toros going 1-2. None of the three contests were close, as CSUDH won the opener, 10-2, before dropping the doubleheader nightcap, 14-2, last Thursday. CPP took Monday's single meeting, 12-3. The Toros have dropped three of four following a four-game win streak. They are hitting .309 as a team, with a 4.81 ERA and a .959 fielding percentage. Senior shortstop Peter Ives is the league's top hitter from his leadoff spot at .444 with six doubles and 12 RBI. Senior leftfielder David Steininger is batting .357 with 12 runs and seven steals on eight attempts. Senior rightfielder Bubby Rossman is the only Toro to have started all 14 games, and has two home runs. Senior right-hander David Haerle (3-0, 1.65 ERA) has been the staff ace over five starts, though he has walked 24 over 27.1 innings and struck out 23. Thursday and Friday will mark the first night games of 2014 for the Toros, who are 7-3 at home and an even 2-2 on the road. Murphy Su'a is in his eighth season in charge at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
UCSD leads the all-time series between these teams, 39-37, and holds a 22-12 advantage over the last 34 meetings since 2007. The Tritons dropped three of four in 2013, splitting the first two in Carson (5-1, 2-8) before suffering a doubleheader sweep in La Jolla (9-2, 3-1). UCSD took three of four in 2012, winning a pair of contests in La Jolla, 3-1 and 15-6, sandwiched around a doubleheader split in Carson (14-2, 0-1).
LAST TIME OUT
Prior to the bad weather last week, UCSD split a four-game series with then-15th-ranked and previously undefeated Cal Poly Pomona, Feb. 20-22. The Tritons ended the Broncos' perfect start to the campaign with a 4-2 victory behind seven strong innings from Justin Donatella and four clutch double plays defensively in the Thursday opener in Pomona. Friday's game at CPP was suspended by darkness with the contest tied at 7-7 after 10 innings. On Saturday, Feb. 22, in La Jolla, that game was first completed, with the Broncos pulling out an 8-7 walk-off decision in 11. In the first game of the originally-scheduled doubleheader, UCSD returned the favor with a walk-off 6-5 triumph as Garrett Tuck's single to center drove in Troy Cruz from second base. Pinch-runner Gradeigh Sanchez had stolen home to level the score just moments before. CPP then rallied with five runs in its final turn at-bat for a 6-4 win in the seven-inning nightcap.
FACE LOOKING TO FINISH STRONG
Senior catcher and designated hitter Nick La Face has gotten off to a great start to his fifth and final year in a Triton uniform. La Face has played in 12 of 13 games, starting all 12, and is batting .357 with a league-leading .509 on-base percentage. He is slugging .595, third-best in the CCAA, with 25 total bases from three doubles, two triples and one of two Triton home runs. La Face has drawn nine walks and scored seven runs, driving in nine.
DOUBLE THE DOUBLE PLAYS
UCSD entered its series with Cal Poly Pomona two weeks ago 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 and UCSD nursing a precarious 4-2 advantage. 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.
NICK LA FACE...TRIPLES HITTER?
Five weeks into the 2014 season, Nick La Face still leads the CCAA...in triples. Entering play on Feb. 14 with one career triple, he belted a pair in the series with Chico State. La Face hit the ball hard all weekend long to the tune of a .375 average (6-for-16) in the four-game home split with the rival 'Cats. He slugged .875 with the two triples, a double, and his first home run of 2014 among his six base hits, while driving in four runs. La Face had a two-run triple and scored off of Wildcat ace Nick Baker during a decisive six-run third for the Tritons in an 8-1 victory in the Friday opener on Feb. 14. He later added a double. In game one of the Saturday doubleheader, La Face's first-pitch single in the third marked UCSD’s first hit. He wound up 2-for-4 with a hit-by-pitch. A leadoff home run in the seventh inning of the nightcap pulled UCSD to within 3-1, but that's how it would end. Finally in Sunday's 7-3 triumph, La Face again put UCSD on the board with a two-out RBI triple on a 2-2 pitch in the first. He was 1-for-4 with the triple, another hit-by-pitch, run scored and RBI.
Triton sophomore Troy Cruz has been a jack of all trades once again this season. The 2013 All-CCAA First Team selection at utility, he has started all 13 games at either third base (eight), designated hitter (three) or pitcher (two). He has also made two relief appearances. In his first mound start of the season on Feb. 16, Cruz matched his career-long effort of 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 hit in the leadoff position in each of the first eight games, and is now batting .326.
DONNY ON THE SPOT IN FIRST CCAA STARTS
Justin Donatella (2-1) allowed two runs on four hits and three walks over 7.0 innings in winning a second straight start at Cal Poly Pomona on Feb. 20. It marked the longest outing of his career. He retired 11 straight Broncos from the end of the second to a one-out double in the sixth. The sophomore Saugus native previously gave up one hit over six shutout innings in an 8-1 victory over then-12th-ranked Chico State on Feb. 14. He walked two and struck out a career-high six. In the process, Donatella outdueled Chico State ace and then-reigning CCAA Pitcher of the Week Nick Baker. He set down 10 batters in a row between a fielder’s choice groundout to end the second and a one-out walk in the sixth. The 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 right-hander 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 (2-0) with six hits allowed, all singles, no walks, and 14 strikeouts.
LEAGUE LEADERS IN GETTING PLUNKED
Through 13 games, UCSD players have been hit a league-leading 31 times by opposing pitchers. The next closest are Chico State (29) and Cal State Monterey Bay (26). Eleven different Tritons have been hit at least once, led by junior first baseman Michael Mann with six. Justin Rahn is next with five. Mann is tied with three others for second in the conference.
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.
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.
RARE TO SEE FREE PASS FROM FASS
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 vs. Holy Names (2/2), 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. Fassler only for the first time as a starter for UCSD against Cal State L.A. (2/8), allowed more than one walk, with two. He then issued three walks, his most as a Triton, vs. Chico State (2/15), and two more at Cal Poly Pomona (2/21) in his most recent outing. Fassler had given up zero or one walk in his first 10 starts in a UCSD uniform. He has gone at least 5.0 innings in 12 of his 13 starting assignments as a Triton, including all four in 2014.
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 preseason national rankings in Division II college baseball, and dropped out of the CBN poll when the first in-season installment was unveiled on Feb. 17. UCSD has moved up from No. 10 (preseason) to No. 5 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) West Region listing. This week's opponent, Cal State Dominguez Hills, is rated No. 8 in the West by the NCBWA.
PLENTY OF TALENT BACK
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 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. He is currently tied for second in the CCAA in walks (12) and seventh in on-base percentage (.466). Mann is from Diablo Valley College. Jack Larsen, Christian Leung and Tyler Howsley are a trio of true freshmen who have earned their college debuts. Larsen has eight starts in center field, Leung seven in right, and Howsley six at shortstop. Larsen and Howsley were teammates at Capistrano Valley High School. Two 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-hander 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.
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 the 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).
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 66-54 record (50-38 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 161-126 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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UCSD hosts defending CCAA regular-season champion Cal State Monterey Bay for four games next weekend, March 14-16, before taking a break for winter quarter final exams. The opener of that series at Triton Ballpark is set for a 6 p.m. first pitch on Friday night, March 14.