If Grant Hirneise’s first game-winning hit wasn’t enough to turn around the UC Davis baseball team, perhaps his second one will be.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound first baseman hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning on Saturday to upset No. 11 Pepperdine, 4-3.
It was Hirneise’s second deciding hit of the week after driving home the go-ahead run in the eleventh that past Sunday against No. 12 UCLA.
“As a fifth-year senior, you look forward to those opportunities, and you’ve got to make the best of them,” Hirneise said. “[I’ve] been coming up big lately, and hopefully that turns this team around in the right direction.“
The win salvaged the series for the Aggies and improved their record to 2-5. The Waves fell to 5-2.
UC Davis is scheduled to host Cal State Bakersfield and defending national champion Fresno State at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
The dates and times of the games are subject to change with rain forecasted all week.
Friday – Pepperdine 7, UC Davis 2
Scott Heylman’s bat woke up.
It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the team follows suit.
Heylman had three hits on Friday while his teammates combined for just one, and Pepperdine got all the offense it would need in a four-run fourth inning to cruise to a 7-2 win at Dobbins Stadium.
Nathan Newman and Cole Cooke’s four-hitter lowered the Aggies‘ season batting average below the Mendoza line to .183.
“It’s still early,” Heylman said. “A lot of our hitters, and not just me, are starting to see the ball better, hitting it hard. It’s starting to come around.“
Saturday – Game 1: Pepperdine 10, UC Davis 0 (7)
The plan all along was to play an abridged seven-inning game.
By the time the seventh came and went, the Aggies couldn’t help from feeling just a little bit relieved.
Pepperdine took advantage of UC Davis‘ struggles on the mound by scoring in five straight innings, and Scott Alexander threw a three-hit shutout in a 10-0 Waves win.
The Aggies issued 11 walks and allowed 10 hits in the shortened game.
“You never want to get ‘mercy ruled‘ or whatever you call it,” said coach Rex Peters, “but in a way it was ‘get it over with, and let’s forget about it and move on.‘”
The two teams had to fit in two days of baseball on Saturday so to avoid the storm that hit Davis the next day. With no lights at Dobbins Stadium, there was only so much daylight to play under.
Tim Busbin had two of UC Davis‘ three hits in the game, including a double in the fifth. A junior transfer out of the College of San Mateo and formerly of Loyola Marymount, Busbin has served as both a hitter and relief pitcher for the Aggies this season.
“I think he needs to help us as a pitcher number one because that’s where we need the most help,” Peters said. “But if he continues to have quality bats, he’ll find his way in the lineup and get more. That’s the reason we started him in the second game.“
Saturday – Game 2: UC Davis 4, Pepperdine 3
Rex Peters gave one instruction to Ryan Scoma, Corbin Cutshaw and Grant Hirneise in the eighth inning: Get ready.
Right-handed closer Nick Gaudi had entered the game for Pepperdine, and Peters wanted his top two left-handed hitters on the bench and his fastest runner to break him.
Scoma and Hirneise began preparing themselves to pinch hit. Cutshaw started warming up his legs.
The next inning, the trio was called upon, and they definitely delivered.
Scoma hit a one-out single, Cutshaw stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball as his pinch runner and Hirneise scored him on a two-out single to lift UC Davis to a 4-3 walk-off win over No. 11 Pepperdine.
“You just try to improve your percentages,” Peters said of the substitutions, “but it’s no guarantee that you’ll win. Scoma gave us a good at-bat and got on base. Cutshaw’s a good guy to pinch run there because he’s a stolen base threat and gets in scoring position. Then Grant comes up and gives us the base hit to win it.“
Hirneise’s game-winner came on a 2-2 fastball that he sent down the left field line.
“Coach told me to get my bat loose in the eighth inning, and I’m sitting there, waiting for a chance, visualizing,” Hirneise said. “I got the pitch I wanted and just went with it.“
Starter Tom Briner and relievers Dayne Quist, Tyler Bremer and Adam Bennett combined to allow a season-low two walks.
Daniel Sepin went 2-for-2 in the game with two RBI and a run.
MICHAEL GEHLKEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.