Teams: UC Davis vs. No. 11 UC Irvine
Records: Aggies, 31-19 (10-8); Anteaters, 34-14 (10-8)
Where: Dobbins Stadium
When: Today at 2:30 p.m.; Saturday at 1 p.m.; Sunday at 1 p.m.
Who to watch: After a few lackluster weeks at the plate, junior catcher Jake Jefferies has jumped right back into the hunt for .400. The Merced, Calif. native went 2-for-4 in the Aggies‘ win over No. 13 California on Tuesday, and is once again the Big West Conference’s leading hitter with a .399 clip coming into this weekend’s series.
On Wednesday, it was also announced that the Aggie backstop is one of 12 semifinalists for the prestigious 2008 Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award, presented to the nation’s top collegiate catcher.
Did you know? With its 6-5 win over UC Riverside last Saturday, UC Davis reached 30 wins in a season for the first time since 2004, when the Aggies finished 37-15. The win over the Highlanders last weekend was also UC Davis‘ 10th official Big West victory.
Preview: Basically, it all comes down to this for the Aggies.
After an impressive first 50 games in the program’s first official season in the Big West, UC Davis will be playing the most important series of the year against one of the best teams in the nation.
The Anteaters, who scored a season-high 18 runs against Loyola Marymount on Wednesday, and the Aggies are currently locked up in a three-way tie for fourth place in the conference standings. UC Davis needs to make a statement this weekend to keep its NCAA playoff hopes alive.
“It’s a big series for both clubs, and one team is going to have to come out of it ahead,” Aggie head coach Rex Peters said. “Both clubs are sitting at 10-8 in the conference, and we’re trying to finish in the top four or five so that we can be in consideration for postseason opportunities.“
“We’ve got to win at least two of three this weekend and … the following weekend for us to get the regional bid that we’ve been wanting to get,“ Jefferies said.
Today’s pitching matchup between junior Anteater right-hander Scott Gorgen and senior Aggie right-hander Eddie Gamboa will be one of the most anticipated Big West duels of the year. Gorgen (10-2, 1.79) and Gamboa (6-3, 2.79) rank third and fourth, respectively, in ERA among conference pitchers. Gorgen also leads the league with 101 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings.
“Scott’s got really good stuff and his numbers back it up,” Peters said. “He’s probably the best pitcher in the conference. We’ll definitely have our hands full with him.“
Sophomore Anteater outfielder Dillon Bell will be a challenge for the Aggie pitching staff this weekend after coming off a 9-for-18, five-RBI week that helped UC Irvine to a 3-1 record and earned him Easton Big West Player of the Week honors.
Like Jefferies, sophomore Aggie third baseman Ty Kelly is chasing down the .400 batting average plateau. The Tracy, Calif. native is hitting .391 on this season, second in the Big West.