ST. GEORGE, Utah – UC San Diego snapped its 11-game losing streak to No. 4 Humboldt State with a thrilling, 10-6, eight inning victory Friday at Karl Brooks Field in the NCAA West Region Two opener. McKenna Clewett delivered the would-be game-winning hit in the top of the eighth following a four-run seventh by HSU which forced the extra frame.
The Tritons, making their fourth straight NCAA West Regional appearance, move into the winner’s bracket and will play host Dixie State, an 8-6 winner over Central Washington, tomorrow at 10 a.m.
UCSD improves to 34-16 overall following the win and earned its first win against the ‘Jacks since Mar. 14, 2012. HSU falls to 46-15 overall and moves into the loser’s bracket to play at 12:30 p.m. in an elimination game.
The experience of the Tritons was evident throughout the afternoon, as seniors Emily McQuaid, Mya Romero and Kirsten Willmon combined for eight of UCSD’s 17 total hits. McQuaid finished 2-3 with two runs, two RBI and two stolen bases, Romero went 3-4 with two runs and Willmon concluded 3-5 with a run and an RBI.
The 17 hits were the most since Mar. 15 in San Bernardino and marked the second consecutive game with a double-digit effort. Amani Proctor, who is now hitting .591 (13-22) in six games against HSU this season, finished with three hits and Alissa Gutierrez, who entered as a pinch-hitter, totaled two hits and three RBI.
Alexis Edwards battled against a tough HSU offense and earned her 19th win of the season. She concluded the day with her 14th complete game in eight innings and struck out six with six earned runs allowed.
After the Tritons were retired in order in the opening frame, the ‘Jacks wasted no time scoring the first run of the game. A leadoff single by Tonya Walker was scored by a Julie Pena single that deflected off Edwards and reached center field.
UCSD responded in the top of the second with the senior connection of Romero, McQuaid and Willmon. Romero led off with a single to center field and advanced to second on a passed ball. Clewett sacrificed her to third before McQuaid singled up the middle to knot the game at one. The senior followed with a steal of second, the 66th of her career, to move into scoring position. Katie Saunders then brought her home on a single to short left field as McQuaid performed a hook slide around the catcher. Willmon wasted no time in bringing Saunders home with a sharp double to left center field. The final out of the inning was recorded at third base after Caitlin Brown singled to left field, nailing Callie Grant before Willmon reached home to negate the possible UCSD run and keep the lead at 3-1.
HSU threatened in the bottom half of the second and put runners on first and second with two outs. Walker singled for her second hit of the game, but Willmon fielded the single in right field cleanly, attempted to get Walker at first, which was then relayed home by Brown to gun down the HSU runner at the plate.
The Tritons continued to stay hot offensively in the third inning with two consecutive singles from Proctor and Romero to begin the frame. Proctor singled through the left side on a 0-0 count and Romero bunted over the head of the third baseman to put runners on first and second with no outs. Clewett sacrificed the runners into scoring position at third and second to bring up McQuaid. The senior cashed in her second RBI of the game following a six-pitch at bat produced a sacrifice fly to put UCSD ahead 4-1.
Dani Randall answered in the bottom of the third for the ‘Jacks with her team-leading 16th home run of the season, a lining solo shot to left center, to cut UCSD’s lead to 4-2.
The Tritons punched back in the fourth inning with two runs on two hits and three HSU errors. Willmon doubled, her second of the game and eighth of the season, and stole third, her 11th of the year, with one out. After Grant lined out to third, Brown stepped in and executed a suicide squeeze with two outs, forcing a throwing error on the pitcher and a fielding error by the right fielder to move her to second and score the run. Proctor followed with a single to left field to bring home Brown to move UCSD ahead 6-2.
HSU put the first two runners on in the fifth, but Edwards buckled down and retired the next three ‘Jacks in order to end the threat. The big out in the inning came on a strikeout from Edwards on Hannah Williams, who has nine home runs on the year, with a changeup that fooled Williams at the plate to keep the score at 6-2.
After Edwards shut out HSU in the sixth, the ‘Jacks mounted a comeback in the final frame with a leadoff home run to left field from Tiffany Hollingsworth to cut into the UCSD lead, 6-3. HSU put two more runners on with no outs with a walk and a single down the right field line to continue the threat. A single just off McQuaid’s glove at third plated a run before another single up the middle made the score 6-5 with runners at first and third with no outs.
After retiring the next two HSU batters with a fly out and a strikeout, an infield single in-between a diving Romero and McQuaid plated the tying run and force extra innings. The final line for HSU in the bottom of the seventh consisted of four runs on five hits.
Grant led off the eighth with a bunt single and was sacrificed to second on a bunt from Brown. After a Proctor walk, Romero singled to left center to load the bases with one out to bring up Clewett. After falling in a quick 0-2 hole, Clewett singled up the middle on a 1-2 count to score the go-ahead and would-be game winning run.
Alissa Gutierrez and UCSD wasn’t finished there, however, as a three-RBI double from the sophomore DP to straight away center put UCSD up 10-6.
The Tritons, behind Edwards, closed out the game this time despite allowing a hit to win 10-6.
UCSD moves into the winner’s bracket in the West Region for the first time since 2011, the year the Tritons won the National Championship.