KEIZER, Ore. – The 2nd-ranked UC San Diego baseball team broke open a tied game in the top of the ninth with eight runs, capturing the NCAA West Regional title over Sonoma State 12-4 on Sunday afternoon in Keizer, Oregon. It will be UCSD’s first-ever appearance at the D-II level at the NCAA D-II National Championships. The Tritons sent 13 batters to the plate in the ninth inning as Robert Sedin’s double gave the Tritons the lead and Tim Mort added a bases loaded double to break open the game. Tim Shibuya earned the win out of the bullpen and Vance Albitz was named the tournament Most Valuable Player.
With this appearance in the National Finals, head coach Dan O'Brien will now have played (1994) and coached in the World Series. “Some of the feelings came back as we made the final out,” said O’Brien. “This is different. It is all about the guys on the field who made this happen.”
With the win, UCSD improves to 39-13, while the Seawolves’ season comes to an end at 35-16.
Shibuya pitched 2.2 innings of relief to earn the win. Kirby St. John was the starting pitcher, going 5.0 innings and allowing thee runs while Ryland MacFadyen also saw action pitching 1.1 innings allowing one run. Shibuya improves to 8-4 on the season.
Albitz led a trio of Tritons with three hits as Gregorich and Cantele had three hits as well. “We always have guys on this team stepping up,” said tournament MVP Vance Albitz.
“This team is playing the best baseball of the year at the right time,” added head coach Dan O'Brien. The Tritons are now 6-1 in the postseason, going 3-0 at the CCAA tournament and 3-1 at the NCAA West Regional.
In the first inning, Vance Albitz led off with a double off the right field wall and advanced to third on Josh Tanner’s ground out. Garrett Imeson followed with an RBI groundout to shortstop and the Tritons scored the first run of the game.
In the bottom of the first, Ryan Stevens hit an RBI single up the middle with two outs to tie the game at 1-1.
With two outs in the UCSD fourth, Brandon Gregorich hit a 3-2 pitch over the left field wall and the Tritons grabbed a 2-1 lead. The homerun was Gregorich’s seventh homerun of the season.
In the SSU fourth, the Seawolves answered with a two-out solo homerun by Brian Wright to tie the game at 2-2.
In the SSU sixth, Ian Bridges hit an RBI fielders’ choice to put SSU up 3-2.
In the top of the seventh, Gregorich singled and Matt Cantele hit a two-run homerun to right field, giving the Tritons a 4-3 lead. The homerun was Cantele’s eighth of the year and 56th of his UCSD career.
With runners on the corners and one out, Joe Slater singled through the right side for an RBI to tie the game at 4-4. Tim Mort threw a strike from right field to get the trail runner trying to advance to third for the second out. Tim Shibuya got the next batter to line out to shortstop and the game remained tied.
In the UCSD ninth, Gregorich led off with a single to left and Robert Sedin doubled to left center for the go-ahead run at 5-4 UCSD. Cantele followed with a single to center to put runners on the corners with no outs and Kellen Lee was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Tim Mort found the left center gap for a bases clearing double and the Tritons went ahead 8-4. Albitz followed with a double to left to put runners in scoring position. Tanner picked up two RBI on a single up the middle and UCSD went ahead 10-4. With one out, Sedin singled through the left side for two RBI and UCSD had 12 runs.
UCSD is back in action on Sunday, May 24 when it takes on the East Regional Champion. The game is slated to begin at 1:00 p.m. eastern time at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina.