No. 6 UC San Diego Back in Cary; Pursuit of Program's First National Title Continues Sunday
The sixth-ranked three-peat West Region champion University of California San Diego baseball program travels to North Carolina all day on Thursday, May 30, for the 2019 NCAA Division II Championship. The eight-team, double-elimination tournament is back at the incredible USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary. The University of Mount Olive and the Town of Cary serve as hosts. The action begins with two games on Saturday, June 1, with the final scheduled for the following Saturday, June 8. The Tritons (40-14) were given the No. 6 seed, and will be the visitor in their opener on Sunday, June 2, at 12 p.m. PT (3 p.m. ET) against No. 3 seed Catawba College. The school is located in Salisbury, N.C., about two hours and 120 miles west of Cary. The Southeast Region champion Indians are winners of 13 straight games. The eight regional champions are headed to Cary, N.C., for the 10th time in the last 11 years.
Second-seeded Tampa (41-14) and seventh-seeded Mercyhurst (34-14) are the other two teams on UC San Diego's side of the bracket. Sunday's winners will face off on Tuesday, June 4, at 4 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET), while the losers await an elimination game, also on Tuesday, at 12 p.m. PT (3 p.m. ET). The other bracket features top seed Colorado Mesa, fourth-seeded Ashland, fifth-seeded Central Missouri and No. 8 seed NYIT. That bracket begins play on Saturday. If two teams emerge undefeated after Thursday's games, they will begin a best-of-three championship series on Friday, June 7, at 12 p.m. PT (3 p.m. ET).
This is the first time in program history that UC San Diego has won three straight West Region titles. In 2018, the Tritons were the only repeat region champion from 2017. This year, Mercyhurst joins them in Cary. UC San Diego is making a third straight trip for the first time since Tampa did so in 2013-15. It is the first West Region team to do it in over a decade, since rival Chico State from 2004-06.
UC San Diego, a winner of 33 of its last 43 games, is No. 10 in all of Division II with a 3.55 ERA, and No. 8 with a .974 fielding percentage. The Tritons are hitting .281, and still lead the CCAA in slugging (.463), on-base percentage (.404), walks (307) and home runs (62).
UC San Diego has gone 63-18 over more than a calendar year, since leaving Chico on April 9, 2018, with a 3-1 series loss, its only one of either the 2018 or 2019 seasons. This stretch has included win streaks of nine and 13 to conclude 2018, and 10, seven (twice) and five this year. The Tritons have taken 11 sets (nine sweeps) and split the other five since that trip, with a program-record nine-game postseason win streak last May as well.
All seating is general admission. Admission is $11.24 per day. All-session tickets are available for $29.98. There is no charge for children age 2 and under. Tickets may be purchased in advance by clicking here. Tickets will also be available at the complex on game days. The box office and gates will open one-and-a-half hours before the first game of the day. Parking is free.
All games of the NCAA Championship will feature live stats and live video with audio commentary, free of charge with no subscription required, through NCAA.com. Lincoln Rose and Joe Castellano will again call the action like the last two years. Games are archived. Fans can access live coverage from the Schedule/Results page, or by clicking on the links above. Starting lineups, live in-game updates and other news and notes can be found by following Triton Baseball on Twitter (@UCSDbsb). Fans are encouraged to also still follow @UCSDtritons, and check out Instagram stories (@ucsd_baseball, @ucsdtritons). Tune in to the #D2Baseball hashtag throughout the week.
2019 NCAA WEST SUPER REGIONAL RESULTS
Cougar Baseball Complex • Azusa
Friday, May 24
Game 1: No. 1 Seed Azusa Pacific 13, No. 2 Seed UC San Diego 2
Saturday, March 25
Game 2: No. 2 UC San Diego 6, No. 1 Azusa Pacific 5
Game 3: No. 2 UC San Diego 16, No. 1 Azusa Pacific 5 (APU eliminated)
2019 NCAA WEST REGIONAL #2 RESULTS
Triton Ballpark • La Jolla
Thursday, May 16
Game 1: No. 3 Seed Point Loma 10, No. 6 Seed MSU Billings 2
Friday, March 17
Game 2: No. 2 Seed UC San Diego 7, No. 6 MSU Billings 5 (MSUB eliminated)
Game 3: No. 2 UC San Diego 11, No. 3 Point Loma 4
Saturday, May 18
Game 4: No. 3 Point Loma 8, No. 2 UC San Diego 7
Game 5: No. 2 UC San Diego 7, No. 3 Point Loma 5 (PLNU eliminated)
2019 NCAA WEST REGIONAL #1 RESULTS
Cougar Baseball Complex • Azusa
Thursday, May 16
Game 1: No. 5 Seed Cal Poly Pomona 11, No. 4 Seed Cal State Monterey Bay 6
Friday, March 17
Game 2: No. 1 Seed Azusa Pacific 4, No. 4 Cal State Monterey Bay 3 (CSUMB eliminated)
Game 3: No. 1 Azusa Pacific 15, No. 5 Cal Poly Pomona 3
Saturday, May 18
Game 4: No. 1 Azusa Pacific 19, No. 5 Cal Poly Pomona 2 (CPP eliminated)
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
UC San Diego is making its 11th NCAA Division II Championship appearance, with a record of 39-22 (.639). The Tritons are back in the field for the third straight year, fifth time in the last six years, and sixth in eight seasons under head coach Eric Newman. They have been one of the last two teams left standing in the West, now in each of their last five turns, in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019. UC San Diego swept through its four games of both the 2017 and 2018 regionals in Azusa, and had a 10-game West Regional win streak snapped on May 18 by Point Loma, 8-7. It went 4-2 at nationals in Grand Prairie, Texas, in 2017 to finish as the runner-up, matching the program's best effort. The Tritons were 1-2 in Cary, N.C., last year. They previously made six straight regional trips from 2007-12. Triton Ballpark hosted the West Regional in 2011 and 2014, with Sonoma State and Chico State advancing, respectively. This year marked the first NCAA activity in La Jolla since a major Triton Ballpark renovation in 2015, with a permanent grandstand, press box, new sunken dugouts, bathrooms, and a clubhouse added in among other amenities. UC San Diego finished 3-2 both at home in 2014 and in Walnut in 2015, reaching the finals both times. The Tritons lost twice to West Region champion Chico State in 2014, and then battled back from dropping their 2015 opener to APU with three wins, before losing the final to host CPP, 7-4. UC San Diego went 1-2 in its previous appearance under Newman in 2012, losing twice to Dixie State in Keizer, Ore. The Tritons advanced out of the 2010 West Regional with three consecutive wins over Hawai'i Pacific, Cal State Dominguez Hills and HPU in Compton at the MLB Urban Youth Academy. UC San Diego moved on to the NCAA Championship in Cary, N.C., and finished as the national runner-up. It also advanced out of the West in 2009 in Keizer, Ore., with wins over Cal State Dominguez Hills, Western Oregon and Sonoma State. The Tritons fell in the national semifinal game to Emporia State that season to finish third overall. UC San Diego previously went 9-15 (.375) over five trips (1986-87-89-92-94) to the NCAA Division III Championship, also with a pair of regional crowns in 1987 and 1994.
UC SAN DIEGO AGAINST THE FIELD
Among the three separate preseason polls for NCAA Division II baseball, UC San Diego was rated No. 14 by the older Collegiate Baseball Newspaper (CBN), No. 4 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and No. 17 by Perfect Game. The Tritons were the unanimous No. 1 in the NCBWA Preseason West Region poll, grabbing all seven first-place votes. They also earned one of 19 first-place nods in the NCBWA's initial national listing. The first in-season CBN rankings had UC San Diego up to No. 10, with the Tritons currently at No. 6. They are No. 10 in the most recent NCBWA edition, and rated a season-high seventh by Perfect Game.
|Tritons in the Polls|
|Collegiate Baseball Newspaper||No. 6||No. 14||No. 4||N/A|
|NCBWA||No. 10||No. 4||No. 1||No. 1|
|Perfect Game||No. 7||No. 17||No. 7||N/A|
REGIONAL CHAMPIONS BY SEED
1. South Central - Colorado Mesa
2. South - Tampa (Seven-Time National Champion...Last in 2015)
3. Southeast - Catawba
4. Midwest - Ashland
5. Central - Central Missouri (Two-Time National Champion...Last in 2003)
6. West - UC San Diego
7. Atlantic - Mercyhurst
8. East - NYIT
DRAMATIC NCAA RUN THUS FAR
UC San Diego rallied for all three wins during the West Regional #2 that it hosted, May 16-18. After managing just three runs on solo home runs in two losses at the CCAA Tournament the week before, the Tritons trailed 4-1 against MSU Billings in their regional opener before a seven-run sixth. They were then down 4-1 in the next game against Point Loma after five, and tied it with a three-run sixth ahead of a six-run seventh. In the winner-take-all finale, UC San Diego was down to its last nine outs, trailing 5-3 after five and 5-4 after six, before a three-run seventh. In the West Super Regional, the Tritons gave up the most home runs in their Division II history (since 2001), six, in Friday's Game 1 at APU, and another blast on the second pitch of Saturday's first meeting. They scratched to a 4-1 lead from there, only to fall behind 5-4 through a four-run top of the seventh. The home half began with a single by Christopher Schasteen and go-ahead home run by fellow senior R.J. Prince, which proved to be the game-winner, on back-to-back pitches. A third senior, Steven Schuknecht, hit three home runs late in the if-necessary decider, with Prince adding a two-run single and two-run shot earlier, as the Tritons rolled, 16-5. Schuknecht actually hit four home runs on the day, after entering with just one on the season. His pinch-hit, solo blast in last year's West finals pulled UC San Diego to within a run at 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, before the Tritons walked off APU in the bottom of the ninth. On Saturday, Schuknecht became just the second player in the program's Division II history (since 2001) to connect on three blasts in a single game, and the only one to do it in a postseason affair. All-time home run leader Matt Cantele (56 from 2006-09) was the only other one, on March 29, 2007.
UC San Diego had great representation on May 7 when the CCAA announced its postseason awards. Eric Newman is the CCAA Coach of the Year for the second time, and first since his initial season in charge in 2012. Shay Whitcomb gave the Tritons a second straight CCAA Most Valuable Player after fellow Newbury Park High School graduate Zander Clarke. Newcomer Brandon Weed is the CCAA Most Valuable Pitcher. Joining them on the All-CCAA First Team were third baseman Alex Eliopulos and catcher Aaron Kim. Second-teamers were pitchers Kyle Lucke, Preston Mott and Ted Stuka, with honorable mentions going to Alex Athanacio, Blake Baumgartner and Keenan Brigman. Weed on May 15 was voted the Division 2 Conference Commisioners Association (D2CCA) West Region Pitcher of the Year, with Whitcomb also on the All-West Region First Team, and Kim and Mott on the second. Mott is now a three-time CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree, moving on to the Academic All-America ballot. On May 22, Weed also picked up NCBWA West Region Pitcher of the Year distinction. Whitcomb is again with him on the first team. Eliopulos and Mott made the second team, with Kim and Lucke garnering honorable mentions. Just this Wednesday, Weed became the unanimous West Region Pitcher of the Year thanks to the ABCA, with Whitcomb (first), Eliopulos (second) and Mott (second) also recognized. On the same day, Weed and Whitcomb picked up NCBWA All-America honorable mentions.
SHAY HEY KID
Shay Whitcomb is the 2019 CCAA MVP as a true sophomore. The star shortstop's batting average is at .321, with his 23 doubles tied for third nationally in Division II. He has hit two doubles in a game seven times. Whitcomb has added 11 home runs, the first six of those coming over just a seven-game span, March 3-30, when he also notched five doubles, 13 runs and 17 RBI. The last two came in the West Super Regional in Azusa. Whitcomb has been in the lineup as the shortstop in all 54 games. The Newbury Park native (Newbury Park HS) had his team-best 22-game reached-base streak snapped on May 9. Whitcomb also strung together UC San Diego's longest reached-base (31) and hit (14) streaks of 2018. The reached-base stretch came over the first 31 contests of his college career, finally snapped through an 0-for-4 day in the series finale at Chico State on April 9. It was the sixth-longest such streak in UC San Diego's Division II era, since 2001. The 2018 CCAA Freshman of the Year missed a single contest and started the other 59 at shortstop.
B WEED A BAD MAN
Junior right-handed newcomer Brandon Weed had picked up the winning decision in seven consecutive outings prior to April 20, the last six since joining the starting rotation. The Southwestern College transfer out of Grossmont High School and nearby Lemon Grove is now 9-2 (71.2 IP, 3.39 ERA, 12 BB, 46 K) as a starter, and 10-2 overall with a 3.10 ERA. Weed has appeared 16 times for UC San Diego, with the Tritons now 14-2 in those outings after 13 straight victories. His April 14 outing marked the team's only complete game in 2019, as Weed went the distance in the seven-inning nightcap against Cal State San Bernardino. He achieved season highs in strikeouts, of five and then eight, in his two starts on April 20 and April 27, against a solitary walk. Weed has gone at least 5.0 frames in all 12 assignments, and a season-long 7.0 innings on five occasions.
ELIO A STAPLE AT THE HOT CORNER
Alex Eliopulos has started the last 130 games in a row, all at third base. He was UC San Diego's only player to even appear in all 60 contests in 2018. There is only one returner in all of Division II baseball (Mines' Mikey Gangwish with 86) who drove in more than Eliopulos' 72 runs a season ago. Those came in part through a career-best 14 home runs (two grand slams) for the La Jolla product, up from five from his first year in the program in 2017 as a transfer from San Diego Mesa College. Eliopulos is back up over .300, at .310, and is tied for first on the team in triples (three), second in in runs (49), RBI (46) and walks (35), and third in doubles (13). He has six home runs. Eliopulos reached the 200-hit milestone for his career with a game-breaking three-run triple in the seventh inning of the May 17 regional win over Point Loma.
MOTTY ON THE BUMP
Preston Mott, a left-hander from Clovis, is in his fourth and final season at UC San Diego with 54 starts among 59 appearances, a 26-10 win-loss record and 3.46 ERA for his career. He's thrown 301.1 innings with 228 strikeouts. Mott has now answered the call for double-digit starts in all four years (14-plus in each of first three), leading the Tritons in that category in both 2016 and 2018. On Feb. 1 in Irvine, he became the first Triton arm since all-time wins, innings and strikeouts leader Tim Shibuya (2010-11), to earn the starting assignment for multiple season openers, having also done so as a sophomore in 2017. Mott is three starts shy of matching Jose Navarro's (57 from 2003-06) program record, at least for the Division II era (since 2001). He is alone in second, now just ahead of two-time West Region champion Kirby St. John (2007-10). Mott became the eighth Triton to reach the 300-inning mark last Saturday in Azusa. St. John in fact is just ahead of him in seventh with 302.0.
Eight great Tritons who aided in back-to-back West Region crowns and a record seventh CCAA Tournament banner last May, were honored in between games of the April 28 doubleheader sweep over Cal State Dominguez Hills. Those eight are Keenan Brigman, Jonah Dipoto, Alex Eliopulos, Kyle Lucke, Preston Mott, R.J. Prince, Christopher Schasteen and Steven Schuknecht. Dipoto, Lucke and Schuknecht already completed their undergraduate degrees in March, and Brigman will begin a Master of Professional Accountancy at UC San Diego Rady School of Management in the fall after graduating in June. Mott (3.9 GPA in pharmacological chemistry) is an Academic All-America candidate. All eight will have earned their degrees by the end of this calendar year.
BEST TO BE LUCKE
Senior right-hander Kyle Lucke is the Triton closer in 2019 after serving as both a starter and middle reliever over his first three years in the program. He has nine saves after closing out both ends of the Senior Day twin bill on April 28, the doubleheader nightcap May 3 in Hayward, and the winner-take-all finale of the NCAA West Regional #2 on May 18. Lucke is tied for first in the CCAA. The El Dorado Hills product leads the staff in appearances for a second straight season, with 20. Lucke is up to 78 appearances for his career, four from matching the all-time program record held by two-time Academic All-American Elias Tuma at 82 from 2009-12. In March, he already completed his degree requirements in the grueling physiology and neuroscience major.
TOP PITCHING STAFF NATIONALLY
UC San Diego leads the CCAA and West Region with its 3.55 ERA. That is 10th nationally in Division II, under the direction of first-year pitching coach Matt Harvey. The Tritons briefly bumped ahead of leader Delta State (2.55) and into the No. 1 position for likely the first time this year, after the 5-1 win at Stanislaus State on April 6, but the teams swapped places again after the next day's activity. UC San Diego finished with a 3.93 ERA a season ago, good for 23rd in the country, third in the West Region and second in the CCAA. The Tritons have placed among the top three in the CCAA in ERA in six of the past seven years. Their staff threw the fourth-most total innings in all of Division II in 2018 at 511.1, after leading the nation in 2017 (557.1).
SHAY GONNA SHAY
Sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb was simply spectacular in the four-game sweep of Cal State San Marcos, March 14-17. He completed the weekend batting .500 (11-22) with eight runs, five doubles, four home runs, 13 RBI, 28 total bases, and just one strikeout, slugging 1.273 with a .478 on-base percentage and only one error in 24 chances (.958). In the March 17 doubleheader road sweep alone, Whitcomb went 6-for-12 with a double, four home runs, six runs and 11 RBI. His season average improved 72 points, from .237 heading into the series, to .309 coming out. The effort earned him national, regional and conference recognition. The Newbury Park native was one of eight student-athletes and three position players from all levels of college baseball to be named among Collegiate Baseball's National Players of the Week. The other seven were from Division I. Whitcomb also earned his first career CCAA and NCBWA West Region Player of the Week honors. Read more here. He completed the month of March at .404 (21-52) with 15 runs, eight doubles, six home runs, 19 RBI, 47 total bases, a .904 slugging percentage and .467 on-base percentage.
UC San Diego continues a tradition of being strong defensively, as it is second in the CCAA, third in the West Region, and eighth nationally with a .974 fielding percentage. The Tritons wound up first in the CCAA and West Region and sixth nationally with a .974 fielding percentage in 2018. They also fielded at a .974 clip in 2017, ninth nationally and second in both the West and CCAA behind Division II-leading Chico State's .983. UC San Diego had finished at .970 for two straight years in 2015 and 2016, topping the CCAA and ranking 20th in Division II in the latter. The Tritons were second in the CCAA, behind only Cal Poly Pomona (.971), and 21st in Division II, in 2015. UC San Diego has been in the top 30 nationally and top three in the conference in fielding for each of the past nine seasons. The Tritons were also second in the CCAA (behind Chico State) in 2014 with a .974 clip, and fifth in the country. In 2013, they were second in the league behind Chico State and 11th nationally (.972). They were 29th in Division II in 2012 (.966) and third in the conference. UC San Diego led the nation with a then-Division II- and still-school-record mark of .984 (1611-673-38) in 2010 and was fifth in 2011 (.972), pacing the CCAA both years. Only three programs in the country have even fielded at a .980 rate since 2010, and they were Chico State in 2017, Georgia College (.981) in 2018, and Central Oklahoma breaking the D-II record this year at .985.
NUMBER ONE RANKING
UC San Diego was unveiled as the new No. 1 atop the NCBWA Division II Top 25 on April 16, with 13 of 19 first-place votes. The Tritons were No. 2 the previous week, earning five of 20 first-place votes, and are most recently No. 4 (one of 20 first-place votes) behind No. 1 Angelo State. UC San Diego was No. 1 in a Division II poll for the first time under eighth-year head coach Eric Newman. The Tritons were last rated No. 1 by the NCBWA back on Feb. 22, 2011. They were in that same position just one day before, in the Collegiate Baseball poll on Feb. 21, 2011. The then-reigning Division II national runner-up was off to a 10-2 start to the new campaign, but a road split at CCAA rival Cal State Monterey Bay knocked the Tritons down.
FIRST CAREER WEEKLY HONOR FOR BAUM
Redshirt sophomore first baseman Blake Baumgartner was a first-time CCAA Player of the Week on April 16. During a perfect 5-0 week, he led UC San Diego in batting (.556), runs (six-tied), hits (10), RBI (seven) and total bases (14). Baumgartner went 10-for-18 with his seventh double on the year, sixth home run, a .778 slugging percentage, two walks and a .571 on-base percentage. He handled all 40 defensive chances cleanly at first. Baumgartner's week was highlighted by a 4-for-5 effort in an 8-5 victory at CSUSB, which featured his first collegiate grand slam, four runs and four RBI. He leads the CCAA in walks (45), and is second in slugging (.613) and on-base percentage (.463), and tied for second in home runs (12).
AK BREAKS OUT
Redshirt sophomore catcher Aaron Kim had a breakout series in the home sweep over Sonoma State, March 1-3, as he hit .429 (6-14) and slugged 1.143 (16 total bases) with four runs, one double, three home runs, 10 RBI and two walks. That included two long balls in the opener on March 1, with a two-run shot to left center on an 0-2 pitch in the first, and a first-pitch grand slam, the first of his college career, to left in the second. The performance earned him national and conference accolades. The Orange product was one of 19 student-athletes from all levels of college baseball to be named among Collegiate Baseball's National Players of the Week. The other 18 were all from the Division I ranks, including reigning Golden Spikes Award winner Andrew Vaughn of Cal. Kim then picked up his first, and the Tritons' first of 2019, CCAA Player of the Week distinction. Read more here. Kim hit a three-run, game-clinching home run at Cal State LA on April 19, and his second grand slam for a first collegiate walk-off in the home finale of that series the next day. He is tied for second in the CCAA with 12 home runs and eighth in slugging (.564). Kim's most recent blast was a rare one over the wall in straightaway center at home against Point Loma on May 18.
200 STRIKEOUTS FOR MOTTY
Senior left-hander Preston Mott struck out a career-high 12 batters over 6.0 innings of stellar relief to close out the first game of the April 7 doubleheader at Stanislaus State. The Clovis product allowed just a solo home run in the seventh among three hits, and one walk, not figuring in the decision. The fourth of his strikeouts, of the called variety for the second out in the fifth, marked milestone strikeout No. 200 for Mott's career, as he became just the eighth Triton arm to reach that number, finishing the day at 208. He is at 228, alone in fifth all-time ahead of former ace and current Golden State Warriors senior vice president John Beaven (216 from 1999-02).
Junior right-hander Ted Stuka earned the winning decision in five straight appearances between Feb. 23-April 6, the first four in relief of sophomore Noah Conlon, and then as a starter on April 6 in Turlock (5.0 IP, 3 H, R, BB, 3K). The 39th-round Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft selection last June of the Baltimore Orioles threw 27.0 innings in those five outings and allowed three solitary runs, all earned (1.00 ERA), on 20 hits (three doubles, one home run and 16 singles), with 29 strikeouts against seven walks. Stuka was clocked as high as 96 or 97 with his fastball while blanking Chico State over 5.1 frames on March 30. He had issued only two walks over 15.0 innings and three stints between March 17-April 6. Stuka is currently 5-4 with a 4.86 ERA and team-best 63 strikeouts over 53.2 innings.
Coming off a program-record 78 a season ago, UC San Diego got its new home run account going in the home opener on Feb. 3, getting a pair from redshirt sophomore roommates Brandon Stewart and Blake Baumgartner. Stewart provided the first long ball of 2019, a solo shot to lead off the second, with Baumgartner adding a three-run, opposite-field bomb over the wall in right center in the third. Stewart's was just the second of his career, and first at Triton Ballpark. Only one of Baumgartner's five blasts in 2018 were in La Jolla, but five of 12 in 2019, including the first three, came in home contests. The first two were to the opposite field in right center, ahead of a rare shot to straightaway center (seen here) against Cal State Monterey Bay on Feb. 16. Baumgartner has started all 54 games at first base, and is hitting .335 with 52 runs, 12 home runs, 54 RBI, 45 walks, a .613 slugging percentage and .463 on-base percentage, all team bests.
UC San Diego pushed aside an 11-year-old program standard (72 in 2007) with 78 home runs a season ago. The Tritons return 42 of them, led by Alex Eliopulos' career-best 14. The record-breaker was Aaron Kim's pinch-hit, two-run blast in the eighth inning of the May 17 romp over Point Loma at the West Regional in Azusa. A remarkable eight were grand slams. UC San Diego has led the CCAA in home runs in consecutive seasons after belting 53 in 2017. The nine-home-run day in San Marcos on March 17 pushed the Tritons back atop the league in that category, where they still sit, alone again with 62. They have four grand slams this year. UC San Diego won each of its first 16 games when producing at least one home run in 2019, and is now 27-6 in such contests. The Tritons hit 10 long balls in four games at Cal State East Bay, May 2-4, and nine over three at the West Super Regional.
UC San Diego got off to a 7-0 start for the first time in its Division II history, since 2001. The Tritons finally suffered their first loss on Sunday, Feb. 17. They were previously 5-0 to begin the 2016 campaign under Eric Newman.
UC San Diego has four walk-off victories in 2019, courtesy of senior rightfielder R.J. Prince, redshirt sophomore first baseman Blake Baumgartner, redshirt senior third baseman Alex Eliopulos and redshirt sophomore catcher Aaron Kim. Eliopulos and Kim's came in back-to-back series finales on April 14 and 20.
• Feb. 16: UCSD 4, CSUMB 3 (Watch)
Prince walked off No. 27 CSUMB to complete a doubleheader sweep and give the Tritons their first 7-0 start in the program's Division II history. His two-run, opposite-field double on an 0-2 pitch found the right field corner and chased Baumgartner home ahead of pinch-runner Christopher Schasteen as the winner. It was Prince's first walk-off hit at any level of baseball.
• March 1: UCSD 1, SSU 0 (10) (Watch)
Baumgartner walked off Sonoma State, also to complete a doubleheader sweep, with a bases-loaded, opposite-field single down the right field line for the game's only run in the bottom of the 10th inning. The hit scored Nick Kitzmann, who had been hit by a pitch.
• April 14: UCSD 3, CSUSB 2 (7) (Watch)
Eliopulos belted a two-out, two-run single just fair down the right field line to score Keenan Brigman from third and Shay Whitcomb from second in the home seventh of the nightcap, completing the sweep of the doubleheader and series.
• April 20: UCSD 7, CSLA 3 (7) (Watch)
After Eliopulos' RBI fielder's choice groundout to the right side with the bases full tied the game, Baumgartner walked to load the bases again, and Kim roped his second collegiate grand slam, to the opposite field and over the wall in right center, for his first career walk-off hit.
Junior college transfers Alex Athanacio, Tyler Leskiw, Luke Mattson, Zach Tresemer and Brandon Weed have all made their UC San Diego debuts. Redshirt freshmen Christopher Buting and Logan White, Jr., and true freshmen Blake FitzGerald, Michael Fuhrman, Ryan McNally, Michael Mitchell, Lonnie Morris and Arjun Nichani have also all earned their first collegiate appearances for the Tritons. McNally's first two college hits were RBI singles, one in each half of the Feb. 23 doubleheader home sweep over then-16th-ranked Cal Poly Pomona. He recently had a 13-game reached-base streak snapped. Fuhrman, FitzGerald and White have also since achieved their first career hits, with White's in his first plate appearance on March 30.
Seniors Alex Eliopulos and Preston Mott both earned preseason All-America recognition from a pair of outlets. Eliopulos was the NCBWA Preseason All-America Third Team third baseman, with Mott picking up an honorable mention. Both were among 10 West Region standouts to earn CBN Preseason All-America selections. Those two also represented UC San Diego on the NCBWA Preseason All-West Region First Team, with sophomores Shay Whitcomb and Blake Baumgartner on the second team. Whitcomb was among CBN's Players to Watch in the West, with junior right-hander Luke Mattson a Newcomer to Watch. Eliopulos was listed in Baseball America as one of 17 top draft prospects from the Division II ranks.
UC San Diego broke single-season standards in 2018 in home runs (78) and walks (nation-leading 329) offensively, and strikeouts (528) and strikeouts per nine innings (9.29) by its pitching staff. The Tritons also won a school-record nine consecutive postseason contests, the first eight via sweeps at both the CCAA Tournament and NCAA West Regional.
UC San Diego head coach Eric Newman, the two-time reigning American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Diamond NCAA Division II West Region Coach of the Year, has 20 returners and 15 newcomers to form a 35-player roster for 2019. His Tritons have posted back-to-back 40-win campaigns, going 43-17 a year ago with a record seventh CCAA Tournament banner and second successive regional trophy. That run included a program-record nine-game postseason win streak.
Newman welcomes back a pair of senior left-handers in power bat Alex Eliopulos at third base and Preston Mott on the mound. Other returning starters include utility Keenan Brigman, fellow redshirt junior Nick Kitzmann behind the plate, sophomore shortstop Shay Whitcomb, and redshirt sophomore centerfielder Brandon Stewart. More will be expected of redshirt sophomore Blake Baumgartner and seniors R.J. Prince, Christopher Schasteen and Steven Schuknecht.
Jonah Dipoto and Kyle Lucke, fourth-year seniors like Mott, are among the arms who are back, alongside the likes of redshirt juniors Blaine Jarvis and Mark Quinby, junior Ted Stuka, and sophomores Noah Conlon and Cameron Leonard. Stuka, a 6-foot-7 right-hander, was the 39th-round draft selection of the Baltimore Orioles, but opted to return to the Tritons. Conlon's freshman effort was cut short by injury.
Some top newcomers include junior college transfers Tyler Leskiw, Luke Mattson and Brandon Weed, and true freshman infielders Ryan McNally and Michael Fuhrman. Leskiw, an Australian native out of nearby San Diego Mesa College, is an outfielder, with Mattson (Golden West College) and Weed (Southwestern College) both right-handed pitchers.
UC San Diego is 7-1 in season openers under Eric Newman, with seven straight wins, and 16-3 since moving to Division II status for 2001 ... The Tritons are 6-2 in CCAA openers with Newman in charge, having last year had its five-game win streak snapped by San Francisco State, 4-1 ... UC San Diego is 11-8 in CCAA openers all-time (since 2001), and 10-1 with eight splits in sets to begin the league season ... The Tritons were 7-1-5 in sets in 2018, and were an undefeated 3-0-1 in their last four after a lone 3-1 series loss at Chico State, April 7-9 ... UC San Diego was 8-0-4 in sets in 2019, with four four-game CCAA sweeps ...The Tritons are 39-5 this season when scoring three or more runs, with their first loss on April 7, 7-3, in the seven-inning nightcap at Stan State ... UC San Diego is 32-2 when leading after six innings, 28-0 when leading after seven, and 30-0 when leading after eight ... The CCAA champion Tritons were the coaches' preseason favorite.
UC San Diego brings back two unanimous All-West Region Second Team and All-CCAA First Team performers from 2018 in senior left-handers Alex Eliopulos at third base and Preston Mott on the mound ... Shay Whitcomb, the 2018 CCAA Freshman of the Year, earned All-CCAA honorable mention, as did fellow returners Blake Baumgartner, Keenan Brigman and Nick Kitzmann ... There are 16 players on the 2019 roster who were in Cary, N.C., last May, with seven of those Tritons (Brigman, Eliopulos, Kitzmann, Mott, Jonah Dipoto, Blaine Jarvis and Kyle Lucke) having also made the trip to Grand Prairie, Texas, for the 2017 NCAA Championship ... All but three players on the 35-man roster are California natives, the only exceptions being transfers Tyler Leskiw (Gold Coast, Australia) and Logan White, Jr. (Gilbert, Ariz.), and redshirt freshman Warren King (Bainbridge Island, Wash.) ... There are four San Diego products in Eliopulos (La Jolla/San Diego Mesa College/La Jolla HS), Brandon Weed (Lemon Grove/Southwestern College/Grossmont HS), Christopher Giovengo (San Diego/Grossmont HS) and Arjun Nichani (San Diego/Canyon Crest Academy) ... Dipoto, a fourth-year senior right-hander, is the son of Jerry Dipoto, who pitched eight seasons for three MLB organizations, and is the executive vice president and general manager of the Seattle Mariners ... Brigman (San Jose/UOP), a redshirt junior utility player, is the younger brother of former University of San Diego shortstop and current Miami Marlins top-30 prospect (No. 24) Bryson Brigman, a third-round selection of the Seattle Mariners in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft ... Sophomore right-hander Noah Conlon is the younger brother of P.J. Conlon, a former left-handed ace for the University of San Diego who made his major-league debut for the New York Mets in Cincinnati on May 7, 2018 ... White, who redshirted as a freshman at Division I Coastal Carolina last year, is the son of Logan White, director of player personnel for the San Diego Padres and senior advisor to general manager A.J. Preller.
UC San Diego swept through a second successive NCAA West Regional in Azusa to make a return trip to the NCAA Championship, this time back in Cary, N.C., with 2010 marking its last visit. After a 4-0 shutout over Texas A&M Kingsville in their first game there, the Tritons dropped back-to-back contests to end the campaign at 43-17 overall. That was all after UC San Diego also swept through four games for its record seventh CCAA Tournament crown, up north in Stockton. The Tritons had shared the top spot in the final CCAA standings with Cal State Monterey Bay at 30-14 each, but lost out to the Otters for the regular-season banner by virtue of tiebreaker rules.
The CCAA baseball landscape was the same in 2019. The top six teams in the final standings, by straight winning percentage, qualified for the 2019 CCAA Tournament. Each team was tasked with playing a four-game series with the other 11 squads, for an intended 44-game schedule. UC San Diego was either entirely at home or away against the six northern teams, and faced split-venue sets with the southern ones. The automatic qualifier into the NCAA West Regional was Cal Poly Pomona as the second-time (2015) winner of the CCAA Tournament, which remained a four-day, double-elimination event. It was held in the neutral-site city of Stockton for the seventh year in a row, returning to Banner Island Ballpark of the minor-league Stockton Ports one final time, May 8-11. UC San Diego made a sixth successive trip.
UC San Diego's road back to Cary, N.C., this year had a different look. Though six teams still qualified for the West Regional of the NCAA Championship, there was two weekends of action to determine the West's representative in Cary. A pair of three-team, double-elimination sub-regionals took place May 16-18, with a super regional added the following week to mirror the Division I format. That was a best-of-three series at the site of the top seed remaining, May 24-25.
HEAD COACH ERIC NEWMAN
Eric Newman is in his eighth season as the UC San Diego head coach. The two-time reigning ABCA/Diamond Division II West Region Coach of the Year and now-two-time (2012, 2019) CCAA Coach of the Year has a 291-156 record (203-111 CCAA) in charge of the Tritons and 386-228 overall in his 10-plus seasons as a head coach. Newman has guided UC San Diego to back-to-back-to-back West Region crowns for the first time, all in Azusa, sweeping through all eight games at the 2017 and 2018 regionals before a 2-1 decision in the first-ever West Super Regional last week. The Tritons were national runners-up in 2017 in Grand Prairie, Texas. Newman led UC San Diego to the CCAA regular-season and tournament titles in his first go-around in La Jolla in 2012, record sixth and seventh CCAA tourney championships in 2014 and 2018, respectively, and back atop the regular-season table in this current campaign. The Tritons have appeared in the NCAA West Regional in five of the last six seasons, advancing to the title round each time, and gained six NCAA Championship bids in all during Newman's tenure. With UC San Diego earning the region's top seed, Triton Ballpark played host to the 2014 NCAA West Regional. Entering 2019, Newman had led the Tritons to seven plus-.500 and six 30-win seasons, and back-to-back 40-win campaigns. He earned win No. 200 in charge of UC San Diego against Chico State, 13-4, on the final day of the 2017 CCAA Championship on May 13. Newman won his 100th CCAA contest at home against Cal State San Bernardino, 9-4, on Feb. 26, 2016, and his 200th at Cal State East Bay, 21-2, on May 2, 2019. He previously went 95-72 in three seasons at the helm of Dallas Baptist University from 2005-07. Newman was the fifth-round draft choice of the San Diego Padres out of Texas Tech in 1994, pitching professionally for eight years with four different organizations.
Eric Newman has welcomed in an entirely new staff for the 2019 campaign in Jonathan Johnston, Bryson LeBlanc, Matt Harvey, Michael Ramazzotti and Justin Beck. Johnston is in his second go-around in the Triton dugout, having assisted Newman over his first three seasons in La Jolla, 2012-14. Harvey is the pitching coach. Ramazzotti coaches first base, with LeBlanc at third. Johnston returned from UNC Asheville, with LeBlanc (UC Riverside) and Harvey (UC Santa Barbara) arriving from future Big West Conference foes, and Ramazzotti making the short jump from the University of San Diego. Beck was an All-West Region and All-CCAA second baseman for UC San Diego last year following a transfer from San Jose State. He is the undergraduate assistant coach while completing his degree in communication. Click here for a Q&A with the new staff.
On Nov. 27, UC San Diego was officially invited to become a member of the NCAA Division I Big West Conference. The Tritons will begin a four-year reclassification period starting in the fall of 2020. They will play a full Big West schedule that season and will be eligible for the NCAA Championship in men's volleyball, men's and women's water polo, and fencing. For the 2024-25 academic year, all sports will be eligible to compete in Big West and NCAA Division I championships. Read the full press release here.
Triton Ballpark on East Campus at UC San Diego was given a brand-new look outside the foul lines in 2015. Some of the main features of the extensive renovation included a permanent grandstand to seat just over 500, a press box, new sunken dugouts, an area for food trucks, and restrooms, among several other amenities. Read details here. Perhaps most significant is the Marye Anne Fox Clubhouse down the right field line, which was introduced to the players on March 17, 2015. The official Triton Ballpark re-opening and clubhouse dedication took place on April 10, 2015. View photo galleries from the ballpark construction, Opening Day and dedication.
For the latest in Triton athletic gear, make sure to visit ucsdtritonsgear.com. Run by UC San Diego Athletics' online partner, Advanced-Online, the site provides an on-demand option for Triton athletic apparel and merchandise. Fans have access to over 600 products that can be processed and shipped within 24 hours.
FOR THE YOUNGER CROWD
Got some young Triton fans in your family? If they are in eighth grade or younger, check out the Junior Triton Club. Membership includes a free t-shirt, admission to over 100 UC San Diego home athletic events, and much more!
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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.
Follow the Tritons
For complete coverage and information regarding UC San Diego Athletics, follow the Tritons online at UCSDtritons.com and through social media on Twitter (@UCSDtritons), Instagram (@ucsdtritons) and Facebook (UCSDtritons). For more information on UC San Diego Baseball, follow on Twitter (@UCSDbsb) and Instagram (@ucsd_baseball). Head coach Eric Newman is also on Twitter (@CoachEricNewman).