The UC San Diego baseball team plays a rare non-conference series against a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) rival this weekend. No. 39 UCSD takes on reigning CCAA tournament champion Cal State L.A. for three games that will not count toward either side's league record. The teams will contest a doubleheader at Triton Ballpark in La Jolla on Saturday, Feb. 8, followed by a single finale at Reeder Field in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 9. The action begins at 2 p.m. on each day. Both halves of Saturday's twin bill are scheduled for the regulation nine innings, with approximately a 30-minute break in between.
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 on Friday night, Feb. 14. The audio/video is free, but does require registration and a login. Some road contests will also have video, including Sunday's series finale at Cal State L.A., without audio. 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 GOLDEN EAGLES
Cal State L.A., the reigning CCAA tournament champion, is off to an 0-3 start to the 2014 campaign, having suffered a three-game split-venue series sweep at the hands of capable Division II newcomer California Baptist. The Golden Eagles, who went 35-22 overall a year ago en route to the program's first league banner, fell to the Lancers in their home opener on Monday night, 8-5. CSULA was picked to place fourth in this year's CCAA race. The Golden Eagles' clear-cut leader is senior catcher and NCBWA Preseason All-America Second Team selection Cody Doyle, a left-handed bat who is hitting a team-best .500 (5-for-10) through three games with a double and two RBI. Cal State L.A. pitching allowed 30 runs, eight of them unearned through seven errors, in 25.0 innings against CBU, for an inflated team ERA currently of 7.92. Vince Beringhele is in his seventh season at the helm of the Golden Eagles.
UCSD holds a narrow 34-33 edge in the tight all-time series, having taken three of four meetings last season, when the teams split a pair in Los Angeles before the Tritons swept a home doubleheader. The sides played to a 2-2 series split in 2012, each winning twice at home.
UCSD produced a resounding doubleheader sweep at home over Holy Names University on Opening Day last Sunday. 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 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.
NO FREE PASS FROM FASS
Senior right-hander Blake Fassler has picked up right where he left off in 2013 in terms of not walking opposing batters. The Rocklin native and transfer from Diablo Valley College tossed five innings in his 2014 debut, 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 nine of his 10 starting assignments as a Triton, and has not given up more than one walk in any of those 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, CSULA, is No. 3 in the West, with next week's foe, Chico State, No. 12 in the land (CBN) and No. 1 in the West.
PITCHING AND DEFENSE
Granted, three of the games in question were preseason exhibitions, but through five contests thus far in 2014, UCSD pitching has allowed just a single run in 45 innings, for a staggering earned run average of 0.20. The Tritons have given up five doubles among 22 total hits, and eight walks against 51 strikeouts, while also committing just one error defensively. It hasn't hurt that they have tallied 56 runs themselves for an average of 11.2 per outing.
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, senior Blake Fassler has the inside track to be the lead starter, and is joined by junior Dan Kolodin and a third right-hander in Cruz in reprising their roles in the rotation. Senior right-hander Scott Zeman should be the closer after notching a team-best four saves in 2013, with junior Chad Rieser a top left-handed specialist out of the bullpen.
NEWS ON NEWCOMERS
There are 17 players new to the Triton roster. Junior transfers Erik Lewis and Michael Mann started each of their first two 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 over the weekend. Howsley saw some reserve action at shortstop, while Leung started the first two games in right field. The only new arm to see time in the preseason was Eric Moersen, a sophomore left-handed specialist who transferred from the University of Utah and struck out the only batter he faced against Cal State San Marcos (1/21). Eight newcomers are slated to redshirt.
UCSD is 2-1 in openers under Eric Newman and 11-3 since moving to Division II status for 2001 ... 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).
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 61-48 record (46-34 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 156-120 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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After this weekend, UCSD opens the conference portion of its 2014 schedule against 12th-ranked rival and preseason league favorite Chico State. The Tritons and Wildcats will contest a marquee four-game series in La Jolla, Feb. 14-16. The opener is set as a primetime affair under the lights at Triton Ballpark on Friday night, Feb. 14, at 6 p.m.