Lauren Zweigle posted two wins and appeared in three games during the series split with No. 14 UCSD. (Photo: John Hefti)
The Cal State East Bay softball team posted its sixth game with three or more homeruns this season and survived a late rally to top No. 14 UC San Diego, 7-5, in the series finale to earn a series split with the Tritons after falling 3-1 in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. The Pioneers (18-16, 10-14 CCAA) went yard four times in game two, holding off UCSD despite a three-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Game 1: UC San Diego 3, Cal State East Bay 1
The Pioneers scored first to open the final day of the series, as Taryn Thomas led things off with a double. Back-to-back groundouts from Heidi McAllister and Jamie Yaller brought Thomas in to score and gave East Bay a 1-0 lead early on.
The Tritons answered back in the bottom of the first, taking advantage of two walks and three wild pitches to put runners on second and third and quickly knock starter Kelly Lowe from the game in favor of Andi Andersen. Mya Romero’s double brought in a pair to give the Tritons a 2-1 lead and an RBI groundout put UCSD up 3-1 before Andersen got a groundout to end the inning.
Though Andersen put together her longest and best outing of the season, the Pioneer bats were again stifled by Triton starter Camille Gaito, who tossed her second complete game, allowing five hits over the final six innings and striking out four to pick up her second complete game victory of the series and 16th win on the year. Andersen was equally impressive, allowing just one run on seven hits and striking out two, while forcing the Tritons to strand seven runners, in six innings of work. Lowe, who faced just two batters, took the loss to drop to 5-6 on the season.
Both Thomas and Emily Montanez went 2-for-3 to lead the Pioneers at the plate, with Thomas scoring East Bay’s lone run. Yaller accounted for the Pioneers’ only RBI in game one.
Game 2: Cal State East Bay 7, UC San Diego 5
For the third straight game, the Pioneers were the first to score. After Devin Salmones hit a one-out double down the right field line, Montanez followed with the first of four homeruns for the Pioneers in the game to put East Bay up 2-0 in the second inning.
East Bay starter Talia Ferrari maintained the lead until the bottom of the fourth when the Tritons put together back-to-back doubles to pull within one, 2-1. The pair of hits knocked Ferrari from the game in favor of Lauren Zweigle, who gave up an RBI single before ending the inning with the score tied at two.
The Pioneers answered right back and broke the game open in the top of the fifth inning, going yard three times and scoring five runs. Sara Holdridge led off with a solo homer, her eighth of the season, to give East Bay the go-ahead run. With one out, Mishka Hamor singled up the middle and Thomas followed with a single of her own to put two on with two outs for Yaller, who hit her fifth homer of the season to put the Pioneers up 6-2 and knock starter Michelle Escamilla from the game. The pitching change wasn’t enough, however, as Taylor Neumann sent a pitch from reliever Jennifer Manuel over the fence in right to give East Bay a 7-2 advantage before Escamilla ended the inning. The inning marked the second time in as many weeks that the Pioneers have hit three homeruns in an inning, following a back-to-back-to-back performance against Cal State Stanislaus on Mar. 18.
Though Manuel kept the Pioneer bats silent over the final two innings, Zweigle allowed just one hit in the fifth and sixth. The Tritons weren’t through, though, as they started the bottom of the seventh off with three straight singles to load the bases. Zweigle got a pop up to record the first out of the inning before a single up the middle drove in a pair of runs to cut the East Bay lead to just three, 7-4, with a runner on second and just one out. An error in right allowed the Tritons to move a runner to third but East Bay made up for the miscue by throwing out the batter at second. With two outs and a runner on third Caitlin Brown notched UCSD’s fifth hit of the inning to bring in another run and shrink the Pioneer lead to two, 7-5. Despite the rally, Zweigle finished out the inning and the victory with a foul out to give East Bay the series split.
Montanez again led the Pioneers at the plate, going 2-for-3 and this time driving in two runs and scoring another. Yaller finished with three RBI and a run, while Hamor, Neumann, Holdridge, Thomas and Salmones each scored a run.
Zweigle got the win, improving to 5-4 on the season after allowing three runs on seven hits and striking out a pair in four innings of work. Zweigle finished the series having pitched in three games, allowing just four runs and earning a pair of victories. Ferrari gave up just two runs on six hits in three innings of work for the Pioneers.
The win in the finale marked the Pioneers third win against a ranked opponent this season after toppling the Tritons on Monday and taking one of four against then-No. 10 Cal State Monterey Bay at the beginning of March. East Bay has now posted multiple homeruns in 12 games this year and Neumann’s 13 long balls lead the CCAA and rank her among the leaders in Division II. The senior catcher is now just five homeruns away from tying the conference’s season record of 18 set last year by Humboldt State’s Chrissy Stalf.
Cal State East Bay will take a break from CCAA action this weekend when it travels to Turlock for the Mizuno Tournament of Champions. The Pioneers are set to play three games on Friday and two games on Saturday before moving into a single-elimination bracket on Sunday. East Bay will open the tournament against Northwest Nazarene at 8:45 a.m. on Friday at Pedretti Park in Turlock.