LA JOLLA, Calif. -- It’s still early in the season, but if Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of No. 1 ranked UC San Diego is any indication, 2012 could turn out to be very special season for Chico State. The No. 15 Wildcats held the defending NCAA champion Tritons to just one run and nine hits over 14 innings in winning both ends of the twinbill by scores of 2-0 and 2-1 and taking three out of four in the conference season-opening series at Triton Softball Field.

Chico State improved to 7-2 with the two victories, moving to 3-1 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), while UC San Diego fell to 5-3 overall and 1-3 in CCAA play.

The Wildcat offense was led by Sam Quadt, who collected five hits and three runs batted in on the day. Britt Wright added four hits, scored twice and stole a pair of bases, while Bianca Lopez contributed two hits and an RBI.

Game one of the doubleheader featured the second matchup of the series between two of the CCAA’s top pitchers, Camille Gaito of UC San Diego and the Wildcats’ Sam Baker. After giving up five runs in four innings in Friday’s 7-1 loss to the Tritons, Baker bounced back to outduel Gaito Saturday by tossing a three-hit shutout, striking out four to post her second complete game of the season and improve her record to 3-1. Chico State reached Gaito for nine hits, with Wright going 3-for-4 and Quadt and Lopez each contributing two hits and a RBI.

TOP 25 SCORES
No. 9 Lenoir-Rhyne 14, West Alabama 3
No. 9 Lenoir-Rhyne 2, Columbus State 0
No. 16 Angelo State 14, Central Okla. 6
No. 16 Angelo State 8, Central Okla. 1
No. 19 Tampa 5, Georgia College 4
No. 19 Tampa 4, Florida Tech 2

The Wildcats went up 1-0 in the top of the third with some fine two-out hitting – Lopez roping a double to left-center field and coming around to score when Quadt grounded a single to right.

Baker made the one-run lead stand up through the sixth inning, at one point retiring eight straight UC San Diego batters. Chico State scored a big insurance run in the top of the seventh, when Kelli Keefe led off the inning with a pinch-hit single and scored on back-to-back two-out base hits by Wright and Lopez.

Now with a two-run advantage, Baker went back to the pitcher’s circle to try to get the final three outs, but ran into trouble, issuing a pair of walks and a two-out single to Mya Romero to load the bases. With the potential winning run on base, Baker struck out Kris Lesovsky on a 3-2 pitch to end it and give the ’Cats the 2-0 win.

Chico State jumped out to a 1-0 lead in game two of the double dip, and it was Wright and Quadt again doing the damage. After reaching base on an error and sacrificed to second to start the first inning, Wright stole third base and scored on Quadt’s infield hit to give the Wildcats the early edge.

The ’Cats missed an opportunity in the top of the fourth inning to add to their advantage, leaving the bases loaded, but in the fifth they plated what turned out to be the winning run, as Wright singled and eventually scored on Quadt’s single up the middle.

Jessica McDermott had thrown 11 straight scoreless innings in the series until UC San Diego finally broke through for a run in the bottom of the fifth, as pinch-runner Anne Wethe scored on a two-out pinch hit single by Maria Sykes to make it a 2-1 game. The Tritons threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, using a two-out walk, bunt single and hit batter to load the bases. Kayla McConnell came in from the Chico State bullpen and promptly got Jennifer Manuel to ground out to Taylor Hanamaikai at short for the third out, ending the inning and the San Diego rally.

McConnell was just as clutch in the bottom of the seventh inning. After retiring the first two Triton hitters, Romero reached on an error to put the potential tying run aboard. But McConnell got Charly Swanberg to ground out to Rachel Failla at first to end the game, giving Chico State the 2-1 win and the doubleheader sweep. McDermott (3-1) allowed a run on six hits in five-and-two-thirds innings to get credit for the win, with McConnell picking up her first save of the season.

The Wildcats are back in action Friday, playing their first home games of the young season. Chico State will take on Academy of Art in a doubleheader.