Playing on the road under inclement weather against a Pacific-10 opponent made this past weekend a challenging one for UC Davis baseball. In the end, the Aggies came away satisfied.
“Whenever you go on the road, especially to a place like Washington, and come away with a split, it’s a pretty successful weekend,” said head coach Rex Peters.
Friday – UC Davis 12, Washington State 5
The Cougars, who had drawn first-inning blood in 13 of its 26 contests entering the series, took the first punch for a change Friday.
UC Davis nearly batted around in the first inning, striking for five runs to support junior right-hander Eddie Gamboa’s sixth straight quality start and trounced Washington State, 12-5.
Gamboa improved to a Big West Conference-best 5-0 by holding the Cougars to three runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings, while striking out four.
“He gave us another quality start [by] throwing strikes,” Peters said. “Our hitters were also steady and scored five runs early to put them into a hole, so that helped Eddie relax a little bit.”
Sophomore designated hitter Kyle Mihaylo led the offensive charge for the Aggies with a career day at the plate. The Aliso Viejo, Calif. native fell just a single short of a cycle, going a perfect 4-for-4 with three runs scored and four batted in.
Saturday – Game 1: Washington State 6, UC Davis 4
It was exactly what Brad McAtee didn’t want to do and exactly what Washington State needed to bounce back from its series-opening loss.
The Aggies’ junior right-hander allowed three Cougar runs in the first inning and then another three in the sixth to fuel Washington State’s 6-4 victory in the first game of the doubleheader matchup.
“Brad’s stuff was good, but he just couldn’t get ahead in the count and walked some batters in situations where it came back to bite him in the butt,” Peters said.
UC Davis had a 12-9 advantage in the hit department, but 10 of them were singles and seven of those runners were stranded by senior Cougar left-hander Jayson Miller.
Saturday – Game 2: Washington State 7, UC Davis 5
The pattern established in the first two games of the series seemed to dictate that whichever team scored first would go on to win the game.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, the doubleheader finale was the exception.
UC Davis put a pair of runs on the board right off the bat, but its pitching struggled yet again as Washington State pulled out another close victory, 7-5, to sweep the Saturday set.
Senior Aggies left-hander Trevor Fox struggled with his command, giving up four hits and two walks in the second inning that led to four Cougar runs.
The Aggies jumped back on top 5-4 with a three-spot in the fourth, but relievers Jeremy McChesney and Bryan Evans failed to protect the lead, giving up the last three runs of the game to Washington State.
“It wasn’t that we pitched poorly on Saturday,” Peters said. “We just lost our command a little bit. Trevor was behind in the count a lot and you’re going to pay a price when you do that against a good hitting team like Washington State.”
Sunday – UC Davis 13, Washington State 11
Most teams crawl into a corner when they fall behind 0-7. The Aggies aren’t one of them.
A first-inning implosion by senior right-hander Jeff Reekers dug UC Davis an early hole, but its conference-best hitting led to a furious comeback with a season-high 21 hits to lift the Aggies over the Cougars, 13-11, and earn the series split.
“It’s really a character win for us,” Peters said. “To be down seven runs early after getting swept yesterday and to fight back on the road to win certainly took a lot of character and heart from these guys.”
Seven UC Davis starters collected multiple hits, including a season-high five hits for junior catcher Jake Jefferies. Sophomore third baseman Ty Kelly and senior outfielder Kevin James both went deep in the contest, which featured a combined 10 extra-base hits between the two teams.
The Aggies will now head down to Palo Alto for a farm showdown with another Pac-10 opponent, Stanford, on Wednesday. They will then return to conference play with a road series at UC Santa Barbara.
RAY LIN can be reached at email@example.com.