The Tritons now look toward Opening Night this Friday, Feb. 1, when they play host to No. 20 Colorado Mesa to begin a three-game non-conference series. First pitch for the opener is 6 p.m. at Triton Ballpark. UCSD, the four-time defending California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) regular-season and tournament champion, is ranked No. 23 in Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's Division II preseason poll.
Vanguard is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC). The Lions have already started their regular season, sweeping a home doubleheader over La Sierra University on Jan. 21.
Senior first baseman Richard Seigel put the Tritons on the scoreboard on Tuesday night, launching an opposite-field, two-run home run to left after junior catcher Nick La Face had singled through the left side of the infield to lead off the home second.
Seigel had had a three-run home run in UCSD's exhibition opener on Jan. 21 ultimately wind up a two-run triple after Concordia appealed at home and the umpire ruled him out for failing to touch home plate. This time around, Seigel made sure to stomp the center of the target on La Face's heels for an early 2-0 Triton lead.
Moments later, it was 3-0 after a run featuring some solid execution by UCSD, as senior leftfielder James Mossholder doubled down the left field line with one out, swiped third and scored on a Dillon Moyer sacrifice fly on an 0-2 count.
"I thought early on in the game, offensively, I really liked our approach," remarked second-year Triton head coach Eric Newman. "(It was) really impressive to see the way we were going about our business. I wasn't surprised to see us break through (in the second). (Richard) Seigel hit the home run. He did a great job. He's been working really hard, trying to refine his approach. I saw a lot of quality at-bats out of our club early."
Meanwhile, junior left-hander Justin Rahn was cruising on the mound, retiring the last nine batters he faced, with a perfect second and third, before exiting with two gone in the fourth, having reached his allotted pitch count. Rahn had gotten in and out of trouble in the first, putting a runner at third through a one-out single and a pair of wild pitches. He then struck out Lion centerfielder Matt Avery swinging, and after a walk, set rightfielder John Schwer down looking to deny Vanguard a run.
"That was the point of extending him out today, to see how he would do, and he did a great job," added Newman about Rahn, who posted a 2.70 ERA over 6.2 innings in two short-by-design starting stints this exhibition season, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five.
"He'll pitch out of the bullpen this weekend, but we're grooming him, once we get into conference (play, with four-game sets), to be that fourth starter."
Rahn, strictly an outfielder thus far at UCSD, has still yet to officially throw a pitch as a college player.
At 3-1 in the fifth, Moyer led off with a bunt single prior to junior second baseman Spencer Frazier having a pitch apparently hit off his bat and contact his face, forcing him to exit the game with the count at 1-1 in favor of freshman Troy Cruz. Cruz fouled off the first pitch he saw, before flipping an RBI double to the opposite gap in right center. Rahn and La Face followed with an RBI groundout and run-scoring infield single, respectively, with a fourth Triton run in the frame via error for 7-1.
The final three UCSD tallies all came in the seventh as Mossholder dumped a two-out, first-pitch, two-run, bases-loaded single down the right field line, with a third run coming across on the final one of three Vanguard errors on the night.
Vanguard, who had pulled another one back in the sixth, closed out the scoring with an unearned run in the ninth off the Tritons' lone defensive miscue.
La Face, Seigel and Mossholder finished with two hits apiece. Seigel completed the difficult half of a cycle with his one-out triple to right center in the fourth. He and Mossholder each drove in a pair, with La Face scoring twice.
Pitching-wise, freshman right-handers Justin Donatella and Adrian Orozco made their exhibition-season debuts for UCSD, tossing a perfect seventh and eighth, respectively, with four groundouts, one strikeout and a flyout between them. Cruz struck out three in the ninth, two on called third strikes, around a leadoff single, two steals and the Triton error. Rahn had retired four Lions on strikes.
"I really liked our pitching effort tonight," said Newman. "Pitching has been really solid for us in all the exhibitions, and our defense has been really solid. That's going to be a part of our club that we're going to be good at. I feel good about where we're at right now, but we still have to get better.
"I was happy with the win, but we need to have two good days of practice heading toward Colorado Mesa coming in here. We have some areas that we need to cover and shore up. We're excited to play. We'll be ready to go."
-- UCSDtritons.com --