Major Awards for Whitcomb, Weed and Newman; Ten Triton Baseball Standouts Honored by CCAA
STOCKTON, Calif. - The fourth-ranked California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) regular-season champion University of California San Diego baseball program picked up three major awards and had 10 student-athletes recognized by the league in some manner for their on-field performances thus far in 2019.
The announcement was made by the conference office on Tuesday evening, ahead of Wednesday's first pitch of the 2019 CCAA Tournament, back for a fourth straight year to neutral-site Banner Island Ballpark of the minor-league Stockton Ports.
Sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb is the CCAA Most Valuable Player, and junior right-hander Brandon Weed is the CCAA Most Valuable Pitcher. The 2018 CCAA Freshman of the Year, Whitcomb gives the Tritons back-to-back CCAA MVP awards, following fellow Newbury Park native and Newbury Park High School graduate Zander Clarke. Weed is a first-year transfer from nearby Southwestern College, and a Lemon Grove product who graduated in 2014 from Grossmont High School.
Eric Newman is the CCAA Coach of the Year for the second time, in his eighth season at the UC San Diego helm. He was previously chosen for the honor by his fellow CCAA head coaches as the first-year Triton skipper in 2012. That campaign also marked UC San Diego's last CCAA regular-season banner.
Weed and Whitcomb were joined on the All-CCAA First Team by redshirt senior third baseman Alex Eliopulos (La Jolla/San Diego Mesa College/La Jolla HS) and redshirt sophomore catcher Aaron Kim (Orange/Orange Lutheran HS).
Gaining selection to the All-CCAA Second Team were starting pitcher Preston Mott, fellow fourth-year senior Kyle Lucke as a relief pitcher, and a third Triton arm, junior right-hander Ted Stuka, as another of four total starters on that squad.
Junior outfielder Alex Athanacio, redshirt sophomore first baseman Blake Baumgartner and redshirt junior utility Keenan Brigman all garnered All-CCAA honorable mentions. Seventeen standouts were chosen to the first and second teams, with 24 honorable mentions.
Eliopulos is a repeat first-team selection after an honorable mention in 2017, his first year in the program. Mott was also on the first team last season. Baumgartner and Brigman have gained honorable mentions for a second successive year. Whitcomb had also received honorable mention before taking a star turn in 2019.
The 10 UC San Diego student-athletes recognized falls one shy of the program high of 11 from 2015 and 2018. The Tritons had identical hauls of three major awards and four first-teamers last May. Four Tritons last made the All-CCAA First Team in 2015 and 2018, with just one first-teamer in 2016 and 2017.
Whitcomb is UC San Diego's third CCAA Most Valuable Player, after Clarke (2018) and Brandon Gregorich (2010). Weed is the Tritons' first CCAA Most Valuable Pitcher since 2015 National Pitcher of the Year and current professional in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization at the Triple-A level, Justin Donatella. Tim Shibuya (2011) and Matt Rossman (2010) were prior picks.
Weed was also in contention for CCAA Newcomer of the Year, but lost out to Cal State Dominguez Hills' junior slugger Pierson Loska, who momentarily leads the league in home runs (15) and RBI (59), though his season is over. Kim and Baumgartner are hot on his trail in long balls, with 11 and 10, respectively. The CCAA Freshman of the Year is Stanislaus State left-hander Rylan Tinsley.
Baumgartner, Eliopulos and Whitcomb are the only Tritons who have started all 45 games, at first base, third base and shortstop. Eliopulos in fact has been in Newman's lineup for 121 contests, dating back to the 2017 postseason run.
Whitcomb enters this year's postseason having reached base safely in 21 straight games, the longest such streak by a Triton in 2019, after having posted a run of 31 as a rookie, also the club's best. He leads the team with his .337 batting average, and is tied for No. 2 nationally with his 23 doubles.
Weed has been a remarkable story, as UC San Diego is still a perfect 13-0 when he throws a pitch, with nine starts coming on the heels of four successful relief stints early. He is 9-0 with a 1.73 ERA, the team's only complete game, and 41 strikeouts against just 10 walks in 62.1 innings. Opponents are hitting just .215 off of him.
Eliopulos has lifted his average all the way up to .318, now with 12 doubles, six home runs and 40 RBI. He and Baumgartner share the Triton lead at 43 runs each. Kim leads the CCAA with his .633 slugging percentage, and is second only behind Loska in home runs. Thirty of his 36 starts have come behind the plate.
Lucke (El Dorado Hills/Oak Ridge HS) is tied for second in the CCAA with his career-high eight saves, and leads the Tritons in appearance for a second straight year with 19. He is 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA. Mott (Clovis/Clovis HS) is 7-1 with a 2.80 ERA and team-best 55 strikeouts against 23 walks over 61.0 innings. Stuka (Newport Beach/Corona del Mar HS) is 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA, with six strong successful relief appearances preceding five starting assignments. He is 53 strikeouts in 45.2 frames.
Athanacio (San Mateo/Cañada College/Aragon HS), a first-year transfer, has blasted four home runs and is hitting at a .329 clip with eight doubles, 21 runs and 24 RBI. Brigman (San Jose/Valley Christian HS) has started 16 games at second base and 15 in left field. He is batting .278 with 24 runs scored, three triples and 16 RBI. Baumgartner (Stevenson Ranch/West Ranch HS) is batting .327 in his first year in the everyday lineup, and in addition to runs scored, he paces the Tritons with 43 RBI and 41 walks. He has nine doubles, a triple, and 10 home runs.
The Tritons (35-10) open the six-team, double-elimination CCAA Tournament as the top seed on Wednesday, May 8, against sixth-seeded Cal Poly Pomona (25-25). First pitch at Banner Island Ballpark is set for 11 a.m. The sides split their regular-season series in late February. UC San Diego is making its sixth straight appearance as the record seven-time and defending CCAA tourney champion.
Newman announced late Tuesday that he would hand the ball to sophomore right-hander Noah Conlon (2-2, 5.87) for his club’s postseason opener against CPP.
About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 37 have earned prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.
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