The Tritons have won 12 straight games, eight of them in the postseason. This season, UCSD has only lost two games by a combined score of three points.
In last Sunday’s game, the No. 22 Tritons came back from a 7-1 deficit to eliminate Azusa Pacific on a walk-off to take the NCAA Divison II Championship West Regional title and punch their tickets to the NCAA Championships in Cary, N.C. this Sunday.
Senior catcher Michale Palos came to the plate, pinch-hitting for junior outfielder Christopher Schasteen with bases loaded. Palos swing on a 2-2 pitch with just roll to slip the ball past Azusa Pacific’s shortstop Mychael Goudreau to bring Justin Beck home for a walk-off win.
“We talked about it all time in practice,” Palos said. “Compete with two strikes. Win the game with two strikes and that’s all I was trying to do right there.”
The Tritons are coming into the championship games with some momentum, having won two back-to-back regional titles and a second straight perfect West Regional run. Coach Eric Newman, however, warned that momentum alone does not win games.
“All I would say, you can feel momentum all you want,” he said. “You still have to stay in the moment and just keep working, keep going pitch to pitch.”
The Tritons drew the third seed and will face sixth-seeded Texas A&M-Kingsville. The Tritons are considered to be the team to beat. UCSD is returning with a lot of the same players who made an impressive run at last year’s championship games in Grand Prairie, Texas, including big hitters Tyler Durna, Alex Eliopulos and the always reliable Palos.
The Tritons are the only team from last year’s field returning in this year’s tournament.
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