The Aggies knew they had put together a strong résumé.
In their first year as Division I members, they compiled a winning record against both conference and Top 25 teams. The program also posted its best overall record in four years.
This past weekend, UC Davis made one final push to reach the postseason, winning its final Big West series against Cal State Northridge.
“We wanted to try and get three wins to help our regional selection,” head coach Rex Peters said. “But anytime you can go on the road and get a Big West series victory, you’ve got to be pleased. It was a successful weekend.”
On Monday, it was announced that the Aggies had earned an at-large bid to the 2008 NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament, joining conference-mates No. 11 UC Irvine and Big West co-champions No. 8 Cal State Fullerton and No. 22 Long Beach State.
“I thought we had a really good season and a strong résumé for the selection committee,” Peters said. “Our players have really moved our program a long way in our first season in Division I.”
Friday – UC Davis 4, Cal State Northridge 3
Rex Peters has said that the Big West is so competitive that games are often decided by a single play.
Though he wasn’t in the dugout Friday due to a league-mandated suspension stemming from the previous weekend’s outburst at Dobbins Stadium, his words resonated just as loud.
Sophomore Matadors shortstop Jason Dabbs airmailed a throw to first that would have ended the eighth, instead resulting in two Aggie runs that decided the series-opening contest, 4-3.
“They gave us a game with their defense on Friday and we felt like we gave them a game on Sunday with our defense,” Peters said. “So it kind of evens out.”
Trailing 3-2 in the top of the eighth, UC Davis began its rally with a single by junior catcher Jake Jefferies and a walk by sophomore outfielder Kyle Mihaylo. The two eventually advanced into scoring position on a passed ball by junior Matador catcher John Parham, then scored on Dabbs’ error.
“All you can really ask of the team there is to have a chance to win late in the game,” Peters said.
Senior UC Davis right-hander Eddie Gamboa didn’t factor into the game’s decision, but turned in an excellent start. He allowed just three runs on four hits while striking out six in 6 1/3 innings of work.
Sophomore left-hander Andy Suiter worked two scoreless innings and struck out four to improve to 6-1.
“We certainly wouldn’t be where we’re at if we didn’t have Andy coming in for that setup role there in the seventh and eighth,” Peters said. “He’s given us great innings all year in those situations and helping us get to Fitzy (junior closer Justin Fitzgerald).”
Saturday – UC Davis 7, Cal State Northridge 2
The Aggies came to Matador Field this weekend looking for a series win to stay alive in the playoff hunt, and that’s exactly what they found Saturday.
Junior right-hander Brad McAtee was brilliant in his last regular season start. He struck out a game-high eight batters in a one-run fashion, carrying the Aggies to a pivotal 7-2, series-clinching win.
UC Davis gave its starter an early cushion thanks to a five-run first inning highlighted by two-run doubles from junior outfielder Ryan Scoma and senior shortstop Matt Dempsey. The two combined to go 6-for-9 with four RBI and two runs scored.
“We got to a pretty good pitcher early and got five runs for Brad to work with,” Peters said. “That helped him relax and pitch his game. He wasn’t pressured to nibble on the corners – he could go after hitters. And that’s what he does best.”
The five runs were the most in a single inning over the entire weekend. Cal State Northridge held UC Davis scoreless over the next five innings while plating two runs itself, but the Aggies finally added a pair of their own in the eighth to put the game out of reach.
Sunday – Cal State Northridge 6, UC Davis 5
With possibly the biggest swing of his young college career, Ryan Pineda crushed the Aggies’ hopes of a series sweep.
The freshman Matadors third baseman erased the Aggies’ dramatic 2-run comeback in the ninth with a walk-off home run in the bottom half off Suiter to salvage the series with a 6-5 victory.
“Andy [Suiter] just made one mistake to a good, young hitter,” Peters said. “He got it and just hit it out of the ballpark.
“It wasn’t a home run that beat us, it was our defense in the short game that beat us. We had a few outs that they were basically giving us and we didn’t play catch, so that opened things up for the three-run inning (in the eighth).”
UC Davis committed just one error in the game, a throwing miscue by junior right-hander Bryan Evans, which allowed the tying run to reach and eventually score.
The Aggies will begin their postseason run Friday at 5 p.m. when they travel down to Sunken Diamond at Stanford for the Palo Alto Regional with Stanford, Arkansas and Pepperdine.
“It’s a place we’ve played at before and where we’ve had some success this season,” Peters said. “It’s a place we’re comfortable with.”
RAY LIN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.