Current UCSD pitcher and former Chaparral Puma, Zach Ernisse (43), appeared in relief against the UCSB Gauchos at Storm Stadium in Lake Elsinore, Friday, March 11. Valley News/Andrez Imaging

Tritons take on Gauchos in Lake Elsinore —

Baseball returned to The Diamond in Lake Elsinore this past weekend, with college baseball players taking center stage. The University of California San Diego Tritons took on the University of California Santa Barbara Gauchos in a Friday and Saturday match-up where games were open to the public. Tickets were only $6.50 with $5 of that cost going to the Lake Elsinore Storm nonprofit, Thunder Cares.

Thunder Cares is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was established through an ongoing partnership with the Inland Empire Community Foundation. Proceeds raised through Thunder Cares benefit local charities, youth sports, military, first responders and other local groups in need.

In the first game, UC San Diego struck first in the bottom of the second inning, scoring Blake FitzGerald from third on a wild pitch to lead 1-0. However, the Gauchos (9-4) responded the following inning, putting up six runs in the third. UCSB added two more runs in the seventh to take a commanding, 8-1 lead. Despite a strong comeback by the Tritons, UC San Diego fell to UC Santa Barbara, 9-6, in their first game of the weekend.

Former Chaparral Puma Zack Ernisse took the loss on the mound for the Tritons (6-9), who were led by Jalen Smith at the plate. Smith finished 3-for-4, including a two-RBI double, while Anthony Lucchetti and Blake FitzGerald both finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.

Former Vista Murrieta standout LeTrey McCollum (35), now playing for the UCSB Gauchos, goes through his pregame warm up before their game against UCSD at Storm Stadium Saturday, March 12. Valley News/Andrez Imaging

The No. 30 UCSB baseball team then turned around and picked up its fifth-straight win Saturday night edging out UC San Diego, 3-2. All five runs were scored in the first inning and a half.

Michael Gutierrez (2-1) took the hill picking up his second win of the season tossing 5.1 innings and allowing just two runs while striking out six. He scattered eight hits and three walks but continued to get out of jams as the Gauchos stranded nine Tritons runners on the day.

Ernisse was the only player with ties to the local area that saw action over the weekend, but the rosters for both teams did include a handful of former local high school standouts, including on the UCSD side: Tyler Weiner (OF) and Chris Gilmartin (LHP), both out of Murrieta Valley High School, as well as LeTrey McCollum for UCSB, who was recruited out of Vista Murrieta High School.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at