Senior hurler Camille Gaito
registered a complete game five-hitter and UCSD rallied for four runs in its final two at-bats as the Tritons topped Cal State Monterey Bay, 4-1, to take the school's first-ever California Collegiate Athletic Association Softball Tournament Championship on Sunday afternoon at Arnaiz Stadium.
UCSD (35-19) moves on to the NCAA Tournament after earning the CCAA's automatic berth to the 64-team field tournament, looking to defend it's 2011 national title. CSUMB (45-12), which earned a share of the regular-season title, will also await the NCAA's announcement that will be announced on Monday.
After taking down No. 1-seed Cal State Dominguez Hills and No. 3-seed Chico State on Friday and Saturday, respectively, to earn a spot in the conference championship game, the fourth-seeded Tritons fell to the second-seeded Otters, 9-5, in Sunday's opening game. However, UCSD took down CSUMB for the first time this season when it mattered most in a winner-take-all game.
"It feels unbelievable to beat those three teams, they are all very strong programs," said UCSD head coach Patti Gerckens. "I'm very proud of our girls and how they respected the game and played as a team."
Gaito (23-8), the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, hit a batter and surrendered an RBI triple to Jackie Serna in the first inning, but gave up little the rest of the way. She scattered a handful of hits while striking out six in the title game.
The Tritons capitalized on a pair of Otter errors in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead. With runners on second and third with one out, Emily McQuaid hit a grounder through the legs of the CSUMB second baseman to bring in Mya Romero. The Otter right fielder muffed the groundball as well, letting Maria Sykes come home from second to give UCSD a 2-1 lead.
McQuaid stole second and scored on Kris Lesovsky's RBI opposite-field single to right. Lesovsky's hit gave her 256 career hits, tying her with Amy Mettee (2001-03) for the school record.
UCSD made it 4-1 in the sixth, tacking on another run via a CSUMB error. Monique Portugal lifted a routine two-out fly ball the opposite way, but the Otter right fielder dropped the sure out to let Romero score from first.
Equipped with a three-run lead, Gaito retired the Otters in order in the bottom of the seventh to clinch the victory. The right-hander from San Rafael went 3-0 over 22.2 innings at the CCAA Tournament, giving up just three earned runs while striking out 12. Her ERA was a miniscule 0.93.
"Camille was oustanding. For the most part, she's just stoic out there," said Gerckens. "She could have let her previous losses [to CSUMB] take her out of the game, but she figured it out and adjusted. She's an incredible competitor, she really is."
Gaito came into the final game of the CCAA Tournament 0-2 against CSUMB this season. In fact, CSUMB was the only CCAA team that UCSD hadn't beaten this season, as the Tritons came into Sunday's game two 0-5 against the Otters in 2012.
CSUMB, who had to beat Chico State on Saturday night in an elimination game, needed to beat UCSD twice on Sunday to take home the CCAA title. The Otters did their part in the opening game, pounding the Tritons for 12 hits, three of them for extra bases, and nine runs.
Nicole Spangler knocked in Lesovsky with one-out in the first inning before Romero reached on an error by the CSUMB third baseman that yielded two more runs to make it 3-0 UCSD.
The Otters got a run back on an RBI double by Cori Reinhardt in the second and exploded for three runs in the third to take the lead. Serna notched a two-run double and Reinhardt registered an RBI single to make it 4-3 CSUMB.
Charly Swanberg knocked-in Kirsten Willmon with an RBI double in the top of the fourth to tie it, but once again CSUMB answered with three runs in the bottom half to make it 7-4.
McQuaid scored on Lesovsky's RBI double in the top of the fifth to bring UCSD within two. However, Serna dealt a two-run single to put the game out of reach.
Three UCSD pitchers appeared in game one. Michelle Escamilla went 2.1 innings, giving up six hits and four earned runs with two strikeouts. Jennifer Manuel (4-5) was credited with the loss after working a pair of innings and giving up five runs, three of them earned. Gaito worked the final 1.2 innings, surrendering a pair of hits.
"I don't think that we were worried [after losing game one]. The loss was not something we wanted. But, it gave us an opportunity to practice a little bit more, and, when it mattered, we won. It was a great tournament," said Gerckens.
Caitlin Brown, McQuaid, Spangler and Swanberg were named to the CCAA All-Tournament Team along with Gaito.