Heading into this weekend’s series, the Matadors thought they had a chance to make the playoffs.
On Friday, they were forced to think differently.
The UC Davis softball team (24-36, 9-12) won the first game of the three-game series against Cal State Northridge (23-24, 12-9) to knock the playoff hopefuls out of wild card contention. The Matadors needed a winning record to qualify for postseason play.
“We were in a position to win all three games this weekend,” said head coach Karen Yoder. “But I’m really proud of our team – we just kept fighting.”
This weekend’s series also capped off the season for the Aggies, as well as the careers of seniors Sarah O’Neil, Ashley Johnson and Lindsey Jones.
Saturday – Game 1: UC Davis 2, Cal State Northridge 0
Aggies junior Jessica Hancock and Matadors senior Mercedes Novato stared each other down in a pitching duel Saturday.
Five scoreless innings later, it was Novato who blinked first.
Erin Emde singled home Jessica Gonzalez in the sixth inning, and Julie Stauder scored on an error, accounting for the lone runs of the game in a 2-0 UC Davis victory.
Junior Jessica Hancock sat down the first seven Matadors until surrendering her first hit in the bottom of the third. It wasn’t until the fourth that Cal State Northridge had runners in scoring position. But with two outs in the inning, Hancock fanned Jackie Duree to end the threat.
It was the closest the Matadors would get to scoring against the UC Davis ace. For the game, Hancock scattered six hits and struck out five batters in the complete game victory. It was fifth shutout of the season, improving her overall record to 17-20.
Saturday – Game 2: Cal State Northridge 8, UC Davis 7
After both offenses were kept bottled up in Game 1, they exploded for 15 runs in Game 2.
Playing in the final series of her collegiate career, Ashley Johnson was a triple away from hitting for the cycle, going 3-for-4 with a first-inning home run to center field.
Junior Trish Paine was perfect, going 4-for-4 with a pair of runs and a stolen base.
In the opposing dugout, the Matadors were led by leadoff hitter Amanda Peek and Duree, who both went 3-for-4 with two RBI each.
The two clubs were neck-and-neck heading into the final stretch, but that’s when the Matadors pulled away – scoring the go-ahead run in the seventh off a Tracy Allen infield single, bringing home Duree.
Sunday – Game 3: Cal State Northridge 7, UC Davis 3
An early three-run homer from Sarah Axelson put the Aggies up 3-1 heading into the fifth. Unfortunately, some shaky defense and control struggles by Hancock ultimately couldn’t hold the lead.
UC Davis committed a total of four errors, and Hancock walked six batters in six innings as Cal State Northridge capitalized in a 7-3 victory.
It was Peek who did most of the scoring for the Matadors, crossing home plate thrice for the game on two walks and a hit.
“They capitalized on our poor defense late in the game but our players kept battling,” Yoder said. “Some key people really stepped up, and I am very optimistic about their future here at UC Davis.”
MATT MILLER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.