It was a weekend of firsts for the UC Davis baseball team.
The Aggies claimed their first series-opening victory on Friday in a 14-8 win over UC Riverside. It was their first win in their past nine games.
On Saturday, UC Davis came back with another win over the Highlanders to claim its first series victory, winning back-to-back games for the first time all season.
UC Riverside salvaged the series with a win on Sunday, but UC Davis still walks away from its weekend of firsts with momentum. It’ll be looking for more of the same when it travels to face Santa Clara today at 6 p.m.
Friday – UC Davis 14, UC Riverside 8
The Aggies took the high road to victory in banging out a 14-8 victory over the Highlanders to open the series.
UC Davis jumped out to a quick start with three in the home half of the first, but found itself down 7-3 midway through the fifth.
The Aggies responded with four in the fifth to tie the score and never looked back, scoring seven of the game’s final eight runs to earn the win.
The majority of the Aggie offense came courtesy of the middle of the lineup. Ty Kelly and Ryan Scoma each drove in four runs. Scoma led the UC Davis with four hits in five at-bats, including a two-run home run over the 410-foot sign in center.
Reliever Andy Suiter came in for the Aggies with a 9-8 lead. He pitched two scoreless innings to close out the runaway win.
“If you win that Friday game,” said coach Rex Peters, “then you have a pretty good chance of winning the series.“
Saturday – UC Davis 5, UC Riverside 4
Saturday afternoon’s game marked Winters Little League Day at Dobbins Stadium. The youngsters didn’t go home disappointed.
Scott Heylman drove in the eventual game-winner and began the game-winning 4-6-3 double play to give UC Davis a 5-4 win and a series victory over UC Riverside.
Though UC Davis had the momentum going into the second game of the series, it was UC Riverside that got on the board first with a run in the opening frame.
The Aggies brought the score back to even when a Kelly single plated Justin Schafer in the third, 3-3.
In the bottom half of the fourth, UC Davis manufactured a run to take its first lead of the game. A Michael Aldrete bloop single allowed Joseph Medeiros to move to third. Medeiros then scored on a wild pitch.
After cruising through the Highlanders‘ line-up with a three-up, three-down fifth, Aggies‘ starter Scott Lyman started to lose his control in the top of the sixth, walking two batters.
Reliever Tim Busbin was able to clean up for Lyman, getting the next two hitters out on a fly ball and a liner to right, respectively.
It took three Aggie pitchers to make it through the seventh. Busbin got the first out and then gave up the game-tying run. Adam Bennett got one batter out before throwing a wild and getting replaced by Tom Briner.
Briner got UC Riverside to hit into a double play to quell the Highlander scoring threat.
“Tommy throws strikes,” Peters said. “As long as you play defense behind him, he gives you a chance.“
The Aggies took advantage of that chance by manufacturing the winning run in their half of the eighth.
After singling to start the inning, Grant Hirneise was able to advance to third on two high infield choppers. Heylman fisted a single to right to score Hirneise and give the Aggies a 5-4 lead with UC Riverside closer Joseph Kelly on the mound.
“I just choked up and tried to put in play,” Heylman said.
“Kelly is one of the better closers in the conference,” Peters said. “We got a big hit when we needed it from Heylmann off a very good pitcher.“
Briner gave the Aggie faithful a scare as he put runners at the corners with only one out in the ninth.
UC Riversides‘ Daniel Pellegrino hit a sharp grounder to Heylmann at second. He flipped to shortstop Michael Aldrete, who made an incredible turn to complete the game-ending double play.
“We were hoping to get the hard ground ball and we did,” Peters said. “[Heylmann] got it and got it to Michael, and Michael did a good job turning it. Game over.“
Sunday – UC Riverside 11, UC Davis 1
UC Riverside plated single runs in five different innings before putting a six spot on the board in the ninth to avoid the UC Davis sweep on Sunday, 11-1.
Eric Johnson drove in the Aggies‘ only run on a double in the second that scored Kelly in the second.
With the series win, UC Davis improves to 9-36 overall and 3-15 in Big West Conference play. The Highlanders slide to 29-16 and 8-10, respectively.
“Eventually, you turn the corner,” Peters said. “Hopefully, this is the corner, we’ve turned it and can look forward to getting better from here.“
JOHN S. HELLER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.