Twenty games into its season, the UC Davis baseball team expected to have some answers on its pitching staff.
It expected to have its bullpen roles ironed out. It expected to have its rotation set in stone.
Twenty games in, the Aggies are still searching.
“I thought we’d have things a little more sorted out,” said coach Rex Peters. “We’re really not any further now than we were on day one.“
Some of the uncertainty on the mound stems from two starters being ruled out for the rest of the season.
Scotty Walker is scheduled to have Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, and Tyler Bremer is academically ineligible.
As for why UC Davis has lost six straight and 12 of its last 13, the reason is a bit more widespread.
“We haven’t done anything particularly well in all phases of the game,” Peters said. “Our hitting is coming along, but we’re still not getting enough quality at-bats with runners on base. We’re still not getting that big hit that we need to break a game open. And on the other side of the coin, we’re giving a lot of those up on the mound. We’re still struggling with our command and just making quality pitches in crunch-time situations.“
UC Davis (3-17, 0-3) looks to turn things around today after being swept by Pacific (10-12, 3-0) last weekend to open Big West Conference play. The Aggies host defending national champion Fresno State at 2:30 p.m. at Dobbins Stadium.
Friday-Pacific 8, UC Davis 4
Rex Peters couldn’t buy a multi-run inning.
In the second, his best hitter flew out with runners on first and third. In the fourth, he called for a squeeze play that didn’t work. In the ninth, his pinch hitter stranded a runner on third with a game-ending groundball to the pitcher.
The big inning was missing for UC Davis while the Tigers had no trouble finding theirs, scoring three runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth to deal the Aggies an 8-4 loss.
UC Davis left at least one runner on base in each of its four one-run innings.
“We’re creating scoring opportunities now,” Peters said. “We just need to get better at-bats when we get those scoring opportunities. We’re not getting enough of those.“
Saturday-Pacific 11, UC Davis 7
The Aggies have developed a bad habit, and teams keep making them pay for it.
After scoring three runs at the top of the first, UC Davis couldn’t shut the door on Pacific, allowing six runs at the bottom of the inning at the start of an all-too-familiar 11-7 loss.
UC Davis has led off a game with multiple runs in three games this season, and all three times it has surrendered its lead later in the inning en route to a loss.
“I think it’s just a mental thing with the pitching staff where they maybe get a little bit tentative trying not to get hit,” Peters said. “When you pitch tentative, you start nibbling and get behind counts. The next thing you know, you’ve got to put one down the middle, and you can’t do that in this conference.“
Tony Bongiovanni and Justin Schafer hit back-to-back solo shots in the second inning to bring the Aggies within one run but would never retake the lead.
Bongiovanni leads the team with three home runs this season and is third with eight RBI despite having only 32 at-bats.
Saturday-Pacific 15, UC Davis 9
Wild pitch, walk. Wild pitch, walk. Wild pitch, walk.
UC Davis lost control of its latest lead of the series, one misplaced pitch a time.
Entering the game in the seventh with a one-run lead and a runner on second, Scott Lyman threw three wild pitches before walking his third straight batters, and Pacific capitalized as part of a six-run inning to sweep the series, 15-9.
“When you’re pitching with the lead late in the game, number one: you can’t walk guys,” Peters said. “Lyman has good stuff and is going to be a very good pitcher for us someday, but anytime you do that, you open the door for them to put up a big number on you.“
MICHAEL GEHLKEN can be reached at email@example.com.