ARCATA, Calif. - Three home runs lifted fifth-ranked Humboldt State to a 7-1 win over UC San Diego in NCAA Softball West Regional action Friday at Lumberjack Field in Humboldt County.
UCSD outhit HSU, 8-7, but stranded 11 runners on base, a majority of those in scoring position. The Lumberjacks plated all the runs they would need in the first inning, coming out of the opening frame with a 5-0 lead.
UC San Diego will face Grand Canyon Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in an elimination game. The Antelopes were defeated, 2-1, by Saint Martin's in Friday's early game. Humboldt State plays Saint Martin's Saturday at 11 a.m.
"We didn't compete, we did not compete with them today," said UCSD head coach Patti Gerckens. "You have to score runs in this game to win. You can’t leave 11 runners on base with at least eight or nine of them in scoring position. The top of the order got on base and did what they needed to do, but nobody came through, nobody clutched up."
Humboldt, which has defeated UCSD in all six meetings this season, wasted no time getting its potent offense started. Chrissy Stalf, the California Collegiate Athletic Association's Most Valuable Player, was hit by Triton starter Michelle Escamilla to lead off the bottom of the first inning. In the following at-bat, Tonya Walker blasted a home run over the fence in dead center, putting the Jacks up 2-0. Following a pair of walks, UCSD turned a double play on an infield line out. However, a third walk led to two runners on for Megan Wink, who brought both in by doubling to left center past a diving Taylor Sepulveda. Alexis Edwards replaced the struggling Escamilla in the circle and promptly gave up an RBI single to Andrea Chavez, giving HSU the 5-0 advantage.
"To go down 5-0 after the first inning - not that we can’t come back from that, we did it last week - but against the better teams, you can’t put yourself into a hole and then have to feel like you’re just trying to climb up out of it all the time," said Gerckens.
The Lumberjacks tacked on two more runs in the fourth, both courtesy of the long ball. With one away, Dani Randall homered to almost the exact same spot in center that Walker did. Following the second out of the inning, Hannah Williams took one over the left field fence for HSU's seventh and final run.
HSU has cracked 106 home runs this season and leads the nation with its 1.75 per game average. It didn't seem to bother the Jacks that the fences at their home field were moved out for NCAA regional play - 20 feet down the lines (190' to 210') and 10 feet in center (220' to 230').
Mya Romero made a great play in the fifth inning to prevent the Jacks from doing any more damage. With two outs, HSU loaded the bases on a single and two walks. Courtney Hiatt lined a ball that looked like it was going to drop into shallow center, but the shortstop ranged to her left and made a fully-extended diving catch near second base to get the Tritons out of the jam.
UCSD avoided the shutout by scoring a run in the top of the seventh. With two outs and Callie Grant on first due to a fielder's choice, Caitlin Brown ripped a double to left-center to bring Grant around. It was Brown's seventh two-bagger and team-leading 41st RBI of the season. For Grant, it was her 36th run scored, also a team-high.
UCSD left two runners on base in each of the first, second, third, fifth and seventh innings.
"They’re a good team, they’re going to score runs," said Gerckens of Humboldt State. "We know that, but we had every opportunity to score ourselves."
Seven different Tritons had hits, led by Grant's 2-for-3 performance at the plate. Escamilla fell to 3-12 with the loss, surrendering five runs on two hits and three walks through just two-thirds of an inning. Edwards gave up two runs on five hits while walking six and striking out one over 4.1 innings of work.
Lizzie Perez upped her season mark to 18-5 with her relief performance. She ceded the one run on five hits while walking one and striking out a pair in five innings of work. Starter Katie Obbema gave up three hits, walked two and struck out one through two innings.
UCSD fell to 33-24 with the loss, while HSU improved to 48-12 on the season with its 12th consecutive victory.
The Tritons have played Grand Canyon once already this season, falling by a 2-1 count at the Tournament of Champions on April 5.
"We have to make the decision that we want to come to the field and compete like a postseason team tomorrow, because we didn’t today, and we are better than that," said Gerckens.
-- UCSDtritons.com --