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Davis, California

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Best in the West

It’s official. The Aggies can hit.

UC Davis showed off its Big West Conference-leading offense at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium this past weekend in its first conference road series with UC Santa Barbara.

The Gauchos (22-11, 6-3) entered the three-game series with the top overall record in the Big West, but the Aggies (22-11, 5-1) leapfrogged them atop the standings as their white-hot bats ignited a second-straight league series win.


Friday – UCSB 9, UC Davis 2

The Aggies aren’t used to losing this season, especially when their ace is on the mound.

Opening up his team’s Big West road schedule, senior right-hander Eddie Gamboa lost for the first time this season as UCSB powered past UC Davis, 9-2.

Gamboa (5-1, 2.64) gave up a season-high seven runs and 10 hits over five innings. The Merced, Calif. native struck out four and only walked one, but his defense committed four errors behind him.

“That just wasn’t the Aggies out there,” said head coach Rex Peters. “Eddie wasn’t himself on the mound, we didn’t play well defensively and our bats were slow. We were just a tired team on Friday.”

Three of the Gaucho runs came courtesy of senior outfielder Mike Zuanich, who homered twice. Sophomore right-hander Mike Ford pitched eight strong innings for UCSB, holding the Aggies to just two runs despite four walks.

“He pitched well, no question,” said Peters of Ford. “But we were just asleep at the wheel and needed a good night’s rest to come back on Saturday.”


Saturday – UC Davis 16, UCSB 2

When UC Davis bounces back from a loss, it usually means a nightmarish day for opposing pitchers.

In four of their five wins coming after a loss, the Aggies have scored at least 12 runs, and Saturday was living proof.

A day after being held to a pair of runs, UC Davis returned the favor to UCSB and pounded its pitching staff for its largest margin of victory this season, 16-2.

Senior outfielder Kevin James led the offensive charge, going two for six with a game-high four RBI whilejuniorJake Jefferies, senior Evan Hudson and sophomore Kyle Mihaylo drove in three runs each.

“We faced a pretty good pitcher in Mario Hollands, but we just tried to be patient, see his pitches and put some good swings on some elevated pitches that put him on the ropes,” Peters said.

Brad McAtee (5-2, 2.70) turned in a stellar eight-inning, two-run performance against the Gauchos after a rough six-run outing against Washington State last week.

“I had a good feeling about him bouncing back,” Peters said. “When he gets into a rhythm and gets ahead in the count, he’s tough. He gave us a quality start when we really needed it.”


Sunday – UC Davis 18, UCSB 14

Most football teams have a hard time putting up more than 35 on the scoreboard in a weekend, let alone baseball. Then again, the Aggies aren’t like most teams.

“We swung the bats well Saturday and it carried over today,” Peters said. “We’re just having quality at-bats in key situations.”

The Aggies and Gauchos each cranked out 21 hits and traded comebacks throughout the weekend series finale. UC Davis finally put things to rest with a five-run 11th inning to finally defeat the Gauchos, 18-14.

Trailing 12-11 in the ninth and one strike away from a loss, freshman shortstop Scott Heylman doubled to put the tying run in scoring position for the Big West’s total bases leader.

Senior outfielder Ryan Royster singled up the middle to tie the game and came home himself after stealing second and getting doubled home by sophomore third baseman Ty Kelly.

Catcher Jefferies put together a career day, collecting a career-high five hits with six RBI on a trio of two-run doubles. The last two-bagger keyed the Aggies’ triumphant go-ahead 11th, helping earn him Easton Big West Player of the Week honors.

“Even if we’re down or give up leads, we’re still going to come back and put pressure on the defense and make a game of it,” Peters said. “Pretty much all year long we’ve been coming back from deficits with big innings. I think they’re just confident. They don’t quit.”


RAY LIN can be reached at sports@californiaaggie.com.


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