Teams: UC Davis at UC Riverside
Records: Aggies, 25-27 (8-13); Highlanders, 29-21 (11-10)
Where: Riverside Sports Complex – Riverside, Calif.
When: Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m.; Sunday at 1 p.m.
Who to watch: In order to extend their four-game winning streak, the Aggies will need to be firing on all cylinders.
One facet of the game that could dictate the outcome of this series is the starting pitching. There is no man more important to the UC Davis rotation than southpaw Dayne Quist.
The sophomore who hails from Santa Cruz, Calif. is 7-4 on the year with a 5.38 ERA in 88.2 innings pitched. In addition, his 76 strikeouts on the season rank fourth in the Big West Conference.
Did you know?: Tuesday’s non-conference game against Stanford was cancelled due to rain and will not be rescheduled.
That, combined with the fact that this will be the Aggies’ final series of the season, means that UC Davis must sweep UC Riverside in order to finish the year with a winning record.
Preview: While efficient pitching is a key to victory, there is no question that the Aggies are best at the plate.
Aided by Big West Field Player of the Week David Popkins, the UC Davis offense has been strong all season.
Popkins, who leads the team in slugging percentage (.590), on base percentage (.478), runs (38), RBI (38), hits (67) and triples (3), also sports both the team-best and sixth highest batting average (.387) in the conference.
While the slugger has been unstoppable at the plate, he will need help from hitters like Scott Lyman, Eric Johnson, Justin Schafer and Kyle Mihaylo in order to out-hit a tough UC Riverside opponent.
As important as the offense is to UC Davis’ success, pitching will be integral to an Aggie victory.
Throughout the course of the season, the UC Davis pitching staff has been both incredible and disappointing. Quist began the season on a tear as all three of his complete games came in his first four starts. Closer Matthew Lewis is tied for second in the Big West in saves with seven, but he did not successfully close out his first contest until UC Davis’ 25th game of the year.
While consistency has not been their strength, the Aggies know that their pitching staff will need to show up this weekend if they hope to finish its 2010 campaign with a winning record.
“To end the season on a positive note is really important to us,” said coach Rex Peters.
– Mark Ling