ROHNERT PARK, Calif. – The 11th-ranked UC San Diego softball team split action with Sonoma State Saturday at Seawolf Softball Field to finish the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) series with a 2-2 split. After dropping game one 7-4, the Tritons responded in game two to salvage the series split with SSU behind a strong pitching performance from Alayna Brenman.
UCSD now stands at 14-4 overall and 9-3 in the CCAA, while Sonoma State moves to 12-10 overall and 6-10 in league play.
The Tritons were led by Caitlin Brown on the day offensively, who finished with two hits, two RBI and a run scored. Brenman highlighted the pitching staff on the afternoon after earning her third win of the season in game two.
The Tritons fell victim to a sluggish third inning in the opening game to fall 7-4.
After two scoreless innings, the Tritons jumped on the scoreboard first with a run in the top of the third. The inning was started by Emily McQuaid, who singled up the middle. After two consecutive putouts by the Seawolves, McQuaid stole second and ended up scoring on a passed ball to put UCSD ahead 1-0.
Sonoma State answered right back, however, to score six runs in the bottom half of the third. The Seawolves only managed one hit in the inning, a two-out two-RBI triple from Keisi Chinen. SSU drew seven walks in the inning, including five straight to bring in three runs.
After SSU added another run in the fourth, the Tritons answered with three runs in the fifth to cut the Seawolf lead to 7-4. Kirsten Willmon led off with a single to center and was followed by a single from Taylor Sepulveda. With runners on first and second, McQuaid laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position. Callie Grant brought home the first run on an RBI groundout, Mya Romero followed with an RBI single to left to bring home the second run and Brown doubled home Romero to finish off the rally.
The Tritons comeback attempt was cut short after being held hitless the final two innings to make the final 7-4 in favor of SSU.
“Walks always come back to haunt you and they hurt us today,” said head coach Patti Gerckens. “You can’t give up free passes. Offensively, we sat back and we weren’t in attack mode. We managed a few late and it proved to us that we could do produce offensively, but it was too little too late. It was definitely a letdown and the team felt that.”
Alexis Edwards was tagged with her first loss of the year and now stands at 7-1 overall. She surrendered six earned runs in 2.2 innings. Hannah Duarte and Jennifer Manuel combined for 3.1 innings with one earned run combined in relief.
The offense was by an RBI each from Grant, Romero and Brown. The Tritons finished with five hits, one each from Romero, Brown, Willmon, Sepulveda and McQuaid.
The Seawolves received a complete game from Amanda Llerena, who improved to 8-6 on the year. Chinen led the Seawolf offense with two RBI.
UCSD received a strong pitching performance from Brenman and the offense pounded out 11 hits to power the Tritons to a 4-1 win in the series finale.
“Alayna had a good game, she did a great job of keeping them (Sonoma State offense) guessing,” said Gerckens. “She got ahead early and made them swing at pitches they didn’t want to. Defensively we played strong throughout the game, especially Mya who was stellar again.”
After three scoreless frames from both sides to open the game, UCSD broke open the game with a three spot in the fourth. McKenna Clewett started the rally with a single through the left side and was brought home by Katie Saunders’ RBI triple to center field. Devoto followed with an RBI after reaching on an error by the shortstop. After two consecutive walks, Grant singled to the shortstop to bring home Devoto and make the score 3-0.
After Brenman delivered a shutdown inning in the bottom half, Brown extended the lead to 4-0 with her first homerun of the year and 21st of her career.
The only blemish on Brenman’s line came in the bottom of the sixth following a solo homerun from Megan Konieczka. Brenman finished off the victory by escaping a mini jam in the seventh to leave two runners on and win 4-1.
“Offensively, Bianca had a great game and it was nice for Caitlin to get her first homerun of the year,” said Gerckens. “We have to consistently string hits together to be successful. We have a solid offensive group this year, so going forward we have to continue to take the aggressive route.”
Devoto, who was making her second start of 2014, finished with two hits, one run and an RBI. Brown also finished with an RBI, while Grant recorded two hits and an RBI in the win for UCSD. Clewett also pounded out two hits with a run scored and Saunders amassed two hits and an RBI.
Brenman improved to 3-0 after firing her second complete game of the year. She allowed five hits, an earned run and struck out one.
The Seawolves were led by two hits and an RBI from Konieczka, while Melissa Smith was tagged with the loss to fall to 3-3 on the season.
UCSD stays on the road next week to face Cal State San Bernardino in a four-game CCAA series. The first doubleheader is scheduled for Friday, Mar. 14 at 1 p.m. in San Bernardino. The set will conclude on Saturday, Mar. 15, with a doubleheader starting at 12 p.m.