Teams: UC Davis vs. No. 12 UCLA
Records: Aggies, 0-0; Bruins, 0-0
Where: Jackie Robinson Stadium – Los Angeles, Calif.
When: Friday at 6 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m.; Sunday at 1 p.m.
Who to watch: There are few familiar faces on the UC Davis pitching staff this season, and junior Andy Suiter is one of them.
A transfer out of UCLA, the lefthander will make his first collegiate start on Saturday against his former club. Suiter went 6-2 last season with a 4.61 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 41.0 relief innings, the most work of any of the team’s returning pitchers.
Did you know? Suiter and UCLA’s Saturday starter very well could be teammates right now, and the reason has nothing to do with Suiter’s transfer to UC Davis.
Suiter and Bruins freshman Gerrit Cole were both drafted last year by the New York Yankees. Suiter, taken in the 32nd round, and Cole, selected 28th overall out of Orange Lutheran High, chose not to sign.
Preview: UC Davis coach Rex Peters knows his team can hit.
It’s what it can do on the mound that he believes will define its 2009 season.
“It’s such a young team and there are so many question marks on the pitching staff, I really don’t know what it’s going to pan out to be,” Peters said. “This could be a 20-win team or a 30-win team. A lot of it depends on how quickly our pitching staff matures and if we stay healthy.“
The Aggies lost all five of their starting pitchers from last season to either graduation or the MLB Draft, not to mention all-time saves leader Justin Fitzgerald. In all, the team lost over 85 percent of last year’s pitching.
Senior righthander Jeremy McChesney (2-2, 4.20 ERA in 2008) will replace Eddie Gamboa as the Friday starter, Suiter will follow on Saturday and the Sunday starter will likely be either redshirt freshman Scotty Walker or sophomore Tom Briner.
What UC Davis may lack in pitching experience, it more than makes up for on offense.
Junior second baseman Ty Kelly was the Big West Conference’s batting champion last year with a .397 average. He enters the season on the Ping All-America team and the Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Watch List.
Batting behind him in the order are a pair of big bats. Senior outfielder Ryan Scoma hit .358, slugged .493 and had 52 RBI in 2008. Junior Kyle Mihaylo batted .284, slugged .516 and was second the team with six home runs despite finishing sixth in total plate appearances.
“We swung the bats really well this fall,” Peters said. “The two key guys are Kelly and Scoma, but we need others to step up.“
Coming off an appearance in the NCAA Division I West Regionals, the Aggies play the country’s 13th-toughest schedule, according to boydsworld.com. It will face seven teams that are ranked entering the season, including defending national champion Fresno State.
– Michael Gehlken