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HOME SWEET HOME
The Tritons open the 2014 campaign with 18-straight games at Triton Softball Field. Overall, UCSD has 28 games scheduled in La Jolla with the last series listed on Apr. 25-26 against Cal State Dominguez Hills. Check out the full schedule by clicking here.
UCSD will begin the 2014 season ranked No. 21 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division II preseason poll. Defending national champion Central Oklahoma was picked as the unanimous No. 1 selection, picking up all 16 first-place votes to finish with 400 total points. Last season’s national runner-up Kutztown followed in second with 376 points. Grand Valley State was picked third (346 points) and California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) member Humboldt State, who was picked to win the conference for the second straight season, is slated in fourth (340 points), while Armstrong State rounded out the top five (338 points). Check out the entire poll by clicking here.
2014 CCAA PRESEASON POLL
1. Humboldt State (8) 80
2. UC San Diego 68
3. Sonoma State 60
4. Cal State Monterey Bay (2) 59
5. Chico State 56
6. Cal State Dominguez Hills 35
7. Cal State San Bernardino 28
8. San Francisco State 27
9. Cal State East Bay 21
10. Cal State Stanislaus 16
WHO’S BACK, WHO’S NOT SNAPSHOT
UCSD returns all but three players from a 2013 squad that went 33-25 overall and placed second in the CCAA with a 24-12 mark. The Tritons qualified for their seventh trip to the NCAA postseason, where they were defeated by host Humboldt State (7-1) and Grand Canyon (8-3) in the first round of the West Regional. Head coach Patti Gerckens, going into her 22nd season leading the Tritons, welcomes back the bulk of last year's starting lineup, including Daktronics All-West Region Second Team selection Caitlin Brown. The senior catcher/first basemen was an All-CCAA First Team member after hitting .327 with nine home runs, 42 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 2013. The Tritons also return All-CCAA selections Kirsten Willmon (First Team), Emily McQuaid (Second Team), Callie Grant (Second Team), Taylor Sepulveda (Second Team) and Mya Romero (Second Team) in 2014. The Tritons only lose one impact player in Nicole Spangler (.347 avg.) to graduation.
The 21st-ranked UC San Diego softball team opened 2014 with two walk-off wins last Saturday at Triton Softball Field against Western Oregon. In game one, Willmon tripled into the right-center gap to propel UCSD to a 4-3 comeback win before Emma Schneider blasted a two-run homerun, the first of her collegiate career, to end the second game after six innings, 11-3. Willmon did it all on the afternoon, finishing with five hits in seven at-bats, seven total bases, two runs, a pair of RBI and one stolen base in the two games combined. Schneider was nearly as impressive after concluding the day with four hits in seven at-bats, three RBI and the homer. The pitching staff, spearheaded by Alayna Brenman and Jennifer Manuel, finished the day with nine strikeouts to a pair of walks and only allowed two earned runs in the pair of wins. The Tritons completed the four-game sweep of Western Oregon on Sunday after earning a 6-2 win in the opening game behind a quality start from Alexis Edwards, and drilled 14 hits in the second game to win 9-5. Schneider continued her strong start to the year with three hits in seven at-bats and recorded four RBI between the two games. Willmon also kept the offense rolling in her strong start to 2014 with four hits in seven at-bats. She also scored three runs on the afternoon. The pitching staff was sharp in the pair of wins and totaled 11 strikeouts in 14 innings.
WILLMON EARNS WEEKLY HONOR
Kirsten Willmon was named the California Collegiate Athletic Association’s (CCAA) Player of the Week for the week of Feb. 2. Willmon helped lead UCSD to a four-game sweep of Western Oregon at home last week. She led the Tritons in hits (9), doubles (1), total bases (12), triples (1) and runs scored (5) in the four wins. The two-hole sparkplug finished the weekend with a .646 batting average, .857 slugging percentage, .646 on-base percentage, two RBI and one stolen base in 14 at-bats. Her weekend was highlighted by a three-hit performance in the opener. The senior started the sixth inning with a single and scored a few batters later to get the Tritons on the scoreboard. She capped off the game with an RBI walk-off triple to the right-center gap to give UCSD the 4-3 comeback win.
UCSD opened the season 4-0 with the sweep of Western Oregon, which marks the first time the Tritons have started the year 4-0 since 2012 … UCSD currently is 4-0 at home in 2014 … The Tritons have recorded two walk-off wins (2/1, 2/1) … Caitlin Brown currently sits in third on the UCSD career home runs list with 20. The senior also ranks fifth on the career walks list (72) … Mya Romero, who has 454 career assists, is currently two assists away from becoming the UCSD all-time career leader … Emily McQuaid currently sits in third on the UCSD all-time career steals list with 54 … Emma Schneider blasted her first-career homerun against Western Oregon (2/1) … The Tritons have three local players on the roster: Alayna Brenman (Escondido/Poway HS), McKenna Clewett (Escondido/Orange Glen HS) and Schneider (Carlsbad/Carlsbad HS) … UCSD has five seniors and five freshmen on the roster.
HEAD COACH PATTI GERCKENS
Patti Gerckens is currently in her 22nd season in charge of the UC San Diego softball program in 2014. The winningest head coach in program history, Gerckens has led the Tritons to three straight NCAA postseason berths, beginning with back-to-back school-record 45-win seasons and appearances in the Division II championship game, the first of which brought UCSD its first softball title in 2011. The Tritons finished as national runners-up in her milestone 20th campaign in 2012. Gerckens has amassed an overall record of 561-481 (.538) over her 21-year career, with seven straight 30-win seasons among nine total and 14 above-.500 outputs in all. Gerckens has led UCSD softball to nine NCAA postseason appearances, with seven at the Division II level. UCSD is 21-14 (.600) in the NCAA Division II Championship. Since taking over the team in 1993, 25 of Gerckens’ players have combined for 48 All-West Region selections. Twenty-seven of her players have earned All-CCAA honors since 2001. She has also coached four All-Americans. Two of her players have earned CCAA Freshman of the Year honors and two Tritons have won CCAA Player or Pitcher of the Year during her tenure. A native of Old Tappan, N.J., Gerckens graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education. She was a four-year starter at second base for the Tar Heels and also played for the New Jersey Blue Jays of the Amateur Softball Association for nine years, winning a championship in 1992.
ABOUT THE LANCERS
California Baptist, a member of the Pacific West Conference (PacWest), opened their 2014 season with a two-game series against No. 12 Saint Martins in Riverside on Feb. 1. The Lancers earned a sweep of the Saints with a 9-7 win in game one before a 9-3 victory in game two. CBU was recently picked third in the PacWest coaches’ preseason poll after finishing 2013 with a 31-17 overall record and an 18-14 conference record. The Lancers, who are in their first-year fully fledged in NCAA Division II, return Savannah Miller and Rachel Meyer offensively, who were both recently named preseason All-PacWest. Miller, a junior catcher, led the Lancers with a .423 batting average, while Meyer, a senior DP, finished 2013 with a .302 avg. and 13 homers. The head coach of California Baptist is Bill Baber, who is currently in his third year in charge at CBU.
UCSD holds a slim 12-11 all-time series advantage of California Baptist. The Tritons faced the Lancers last season at the Tournament of Champions in Turlock. CBU grabbed a 2-0 win, as the Tritons were limited to three hits. UCSD will also face the Lancers in 2014’s Tournament of Champions on Apr. 4 at 5:45 p.m.
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THE BIG PICTURE
We want to reward you for posting your creative photos showing Triton spirit. Tweet, Facebook or Instagram your pics and include our #TritonsRising hashtag. At the end of every month, we'll pick our favorite photos and dole out some swag to the winners!
As part of the 18-game homestand to start the year, the Tritons begin CCAA play with a four-game series with Chico State. Games one and two will be on Friday, Feb. 14 with a start time of 1:00 p.m. On Saturday at Triton Softball Field, the series will conclude with a doubleheader starting at 10 a.m.