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Thursday, October 28, 2021

UC Davis nearly tops No. 1 Arizona State

This weekend, the UC Davis softball team was close to experiencing the highest of highs: dethroning the No. 1 team in the nation.

The Aggies came up short but gained confidence that they could hang with the top softball teams. They went on to win three out of the next four contests at the highly competitive Diamond Devil Invitational this weekend.

“We could stand to be more consistent,” head coach Karen Yoder said. “But overall, we attacked the ball really well, and I’m proud of how we played.”

Friday – No. 1 Arizona State 10, UC Davis 8

Arizona State is used to sweating under the hot desert sun, but on Friday it was UC Davis that turned up the heat.

The Aggies jumped out to an early lead and led as late as the bottom of the fifth before the Sun Devils cooled the potential upset with a 10-8 victory.

“It was a battle on both ends,” Yoder said. “We weren’t intimidated at all by their ranking, and I was extremely proud of how aggressive we were offensively all game long. It was a really exciting game, and I just wish more members of our community had the chance to watch it.”

With two outs and the bases empty in the first inning of game, the Aggies’ bats went to work.

Juniors Julie Stauder and Deanna Menapace drew walks, and sophomore Erin Emde hit an RBI double to score the first run of the game.

After the score, UC Davis’ offense was far from through.

Senior Sarah O’Neil kept the two-out rally going with an RBI single to right field to score Menapace. Emde scored after a fielding error and the Aggies took a 3-0 lead.

Sophomore Sarah Axelson then launched her first career home run to give UC Davis a 5-0 advantage before Arizona State had even stepped up to the plate.

But the Sun Devils are ranked No. 1 for a reason.

They responded with five runs of their own, and at the end of one inning played, the score was tied 5-5 – on pace for a 35-35 offensive explosion.

As expected, the scoring slowed down, but it did not end entirely.

Emde hit her second RBI double of the game in the second inning to drive in freshman Alex Holmes.

In the top of the fourth with the score knotted at seven a piece, Stauder came to bat and hit a solo shot to take a one run lead, 8-7.

But the Aggies would fail to score for the rest of the game. Sun Devils ace Katie Burkhart took over the game, striking out 13 Aggies in just 5.1 innings of work.

Arizona State’s offense chimed in, scoring two runs in the fifth and one run in the sixth to close out the contest.

Friday – UC Davis 5, Utah 1

After coming just a few runs shy of upsetting the top team in the country, the Aggies got right back on track with the help of Menapace’s bat.

The catcher from Livermore drove in four of the Aggies’ five runs, including a three-RBI double in the second inning.

Junior Jessica Hancock and Holmes combined for a solid outing against the Utes, allowing only three hits and striking out nine.

Hancock recorded her eighth win of the season while Holmes grabbed her first career save.

Saturday – No. 21 San Diego State 7, UC Davis 0

After combining for 13 runs on Friday, the Aggie offense got off to a slow start Saturday and was shut out for just the third time this season, 7-0.

San Diego State’s duo of Christina Ross and Samantha Beasley combined to allow just three Aggie singles and two walks while striking out nine.

The Aztecs took advantage of three Aggie errors to score six of their seven runs in the second inning.

Saturday – UC Davis 4, San Diego 3

Add “clutch closer” to Alex Holmes’ résumé.

For the second time in as many days, the right-hander from San Juan Capistrano closed out the opposition to give UC Davis the win.

This time, the pressure was mounted.

With runners on the corners and one out, Holmes protected a one-run Aggie lead to give them a 4-3 victory over the Toreros.

Menapace paced the offense with a three-run home run in the first inning.

Sunday – UC Davis 5, Utah 4

Menapace’s offense was the difference for the Aggies on Saturday.

On Sunday, it was no different.

The catcher hit a decisive two-run single in the sixth inning, as UC Davis defeated Utah 5-4.

The junior has been red-hot in the last nine games, hitting .583 with three HR and nine RBI. For the season, she is batting .288 and leads the team with 24 RBI and a .507 slugging percentage.

“She’s just been putting the ball in play,” Yoder said. “She’s doing a good job putting us in a good position to win games by moving those runners along, and that’s a key to our success.”

The Aggies will return to the diamond Thursday in a doubleheader against Nevada at La Rue Field.

MATT MILLER can be reached at sports@californiaaggie.com.

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