Teams: UC Davis vs. Utah
Records: Aggies, 0-0; Utes; 0-0
Where: Dobbins Stadium
When: Friday at 2 p.m.; Saturday at 1 p.m.; Sunday at 12 p.m.
Who to watch: Infielder Justin Schafer was spectacular last season as a junior.
The Los Gatos, Calif. native returns after leading the Aggies in batting average (.338), on-base percentage (.411) and steals (7) while recording the fewest number of strikeouts among players who logged at least 100 at-bats.
Did you know? UC Davis had three players drafted by Major League Baseball organizations in 2009. They were Ty Kelly (Baltimore Orioles), Andy Suiter (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Ryan Scoma (San Francisco Giants).
Preview: After finishing ninth in the Big West Conference last season, the Aggies expect to improve this time around.
Since UC Davis plays in one of the nation’s best conferences, the improvements may not be reflected in the standings.
“We have a solid schedule this year,” said coach Rex Peters. “It’s not as tough as last season but when you play in the Big West, it’s never going to be easy. Whether it shows with wins and losses, we’re going to improve.”
UC Davis will look to set the tone early with a weekend series against Utah.
The Utes – who were picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West Conference – will provide a good barometer of how the season will go for the Aggies. Utah closed out their 2009 campaign with a 20-15 mark in non-conference games while finishing above .500 on the road.
“We have the chance to play some pretty good teams in preparation for the conference schedule,” Peters said. “We get to play Big West caliber teams like California and Stanford. The non-conference schedule will give us a good indication of where we’re at.”
To compete with their many challenging opponents, the Aggies will focus on pitching and defense.
“We need to improve on the mound,” Peters said. “We had trouble throwing strikes last year. To be competitive this year, we have to throw strikes and improve our defense.”
While offensive improvement would go a long way towards success, UC Davis knows that they have some big shoes to fill after losing Kelly and Scoma.
“Everybody has to pick up the slack,” Peters said. “We need to define our roles on offense with the loss of those guys.”
In addition to improving on the field, the Aggies know that they need to improve off of it as well.
“We were pretty young last year,” Peters said. “Our guys need to discover their roles and improve as the year goes on. They’re still growing, but the experience from last year should pay off as we try to get the program back on track.”
– Mark Ling