LA JOLLA, Calif. - The No. 14 UC San Diego softball team topped Cal State East Bay 3-0 in the opening game of the teams' four-game set, but the Pioneers came back with a 5-2 win in extra innings in California Collegiate Athletic Association play on Monday night at Triton Softball Field.
CSUEB snapped UCSD's win streak of seven games with three runs in the top of the eighth inning of game two. The Tritons sit at 25-9 overall and 19-7 in conference play. The Pioneers are 17-15 and 9-13 CCAA.
"I don't think that we competed the way we have been. [East Bay] played two very good games and they made less mistakes," said UCSD head coach Patti Gerckens. "They also got the hits when they needed them."
Even though CSUEB tripled UCSD in hits in the opening game, six to two, Triton starter Camille Gaito (15-4) didn't let a runner past second base on the way to her 13th complete game and eighth shutout victory of the year.
In the bottom of the first, Lesovsky led off with a double down the left field line and moved over on Kirsten Willmon's sacrifice bunt. Charly Swanberg lifted a one-out fly ball to right field to score Lesovsky and make it 1-0. Mya Romero, who walked earlier in the inning, was thrown out at third by the catcher to end the threat.
Romero made up for her first-inning miscue in the bottom of the sixth. She led off with a walk before beating the throw to second base on Swanberg's chopper to the shortstop. After Nicole Spangler flew-out to the warning track, Romero stole third and pinch-runner Annie Heskett advanced to put runners in scoring position with Caitlin Brown at the plate.
Brown nudged a slow-roller to the left side and forced a hurried throw to first from the CSUEB third baseman. The throw sailed into right field, allowing Brown to take second. Romero, who would have scored anyway without the errant throw, scooted home before Heskett scurried in from second to put the Tritons up by three.
The Pioneers didn't go down quietly as they brought the game-tying run to the plate three times in their final at-bat. Taylor Neumann and Sara Holdridge managed back-to-back singles to place runners on first and second with no out. However, Gaito forced the next two batters into grounders to short, allowing Romero to throw out the lead runner at third on each occasion. With two down, Gaito coaxed pinch-hitter Heidi McAllister into a grounder back to her shoelaces before tossing the ball casually over to first to end the game.
Gaito lowered her conference-best ERA from 1.23 to 1.16 in game one. She has not allowed a run in her last 26 innings of work and has not surrendered an earned run in six appearances since March 10.
The Pioneers jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the fourth inning of game two on RBI singles by Emily Montanez and Devin Salmones.
Romero led off the Triton half of the fourth with a single through the left side and Brown picked her up with a two-out single down the left field line to bring UCSD within one. Brown reached third base on an errant throw by the Pioneer left fielder, Monique Portugal and Nicole Spangler walked to load the bases, but CSUEB escaped the inning when Emily McQuaid grounded out to third.
McQuaid got another crack at it in the bottom of the sixth, however. Portugal reached on an infield single with two out before Spangler was hit by a pitch. McQuaid, who came into Monday with no RBI on the season, placed a seeing-eye bloop single over the third baseman's head to drive in Portugal and make it 2-2. The lead run stood 60 feet away, but Lesovsky's deep fly to center was easily handled by Mishka Hamor.
"Emily had been struggling a bit up there, but she came through for us big time in that at-bat. I swear that ball had eyes," said Gerckens.
After Michelle Escamilla (5-2) downed the Pioneers in order in the top of the seventh, it looked as though fate might be on the Tritons' side.
With Romero on first and one out, Swanberg hit a roller to the right side. Second baseman Taryn Thomas fielded the ball and then attempted to catch Romero at second, but Thomas' throw careened off of umpire Les Carr's head and into left field. Romero advanced on the play to put the winning run on third with one out.
Heskett, who pinch ran for Swanberg, took second on the following play to give the Tritons two runners in scoring position. However, UCSD could not take advantage of the situation, as Jennifer Manuel struck out and Brown popped up to the third baseman in foul territory.
"We had [the game] in our pockets. We could have won it in the sixth and in the seventh. They get one opportunity and they made the most of it," said Gerckens.
In the eighth, Thomas singled and Talia Ferrari reached on an infield error to give the Pioneers two runners and no body out. Neumann followed with a single to drive-in Thomas before Montanez laced a two-run single into center to hand CSUEB its final 5-2 scoreline.
"Anytime you punch back it shows how much fight your team has. The girls are dissapointed, everyone's dissapointed. But, East Bay competed and they competed better than we did. We've got to come back stronger tomorrow," said Gerckens.
UCSD stranded 11 runners on base while CSUEB left six runners aboard in game two.
The Tritons and Pioneers will finish off their series tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. with two games at Triton Softball Field.