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Davis, California

Sunday, July 21, 2024

UC Davis shocks No. 18 UC Irvine

In the five seasons that UC Davis has competed in the Big West Conference, the Aggies had never won a game at Anteater Park.

That is, until Friday afternoon.

UC Davis topped nationally-ranked UC Irvine in game two of a three-game series in thrilling fashion.

“That was a really good win for us,” said coach Rex Peters. “UC Irvine is a really good team. They hadn’t lost a game at home all year, and we’ve never won a game at [UC] Irvine, so it was a milestone win in a lot of ways. [Anteater Park] is a tough place to play and a tough place to win.”

With the feat, the Aggies moved to a 3-6 Big West Conference record and 9-24 overall.

Thursday – UC Irvine 3, UC Davis 2

Thursday’s series-opener was tight till the end.

Junior starting pitcher Dayne Quist threw six and one-third innings, striking out three and surrendering just two earned runs – both in the bottom of the fifth.

By the end of the seventh frame, the Aggies tied it up on RBI singles from senior Scott Heylman and senior Daniel Cepin.

A UC Irvine bases-loaded bunt would plate the eventual winning run in the bottom of the eighth, however.

Despite the loss, Peters said the low-scoring, one-run game was enough to give the Aggies some momentum going into Friday.

“It gave us a little bit of confidence, that we can play with [the Anteaters] and beat them,” Peters said. “I guess that carried over.”

Friday – UC Davis 3, UC Irvine 2

The Aggies were testing their fresh legs.

With no playoff opportunity for UC Davis, freshman catcher Spencer Brann got the shot to knock in game-wining run in extras on Friday to give the Aggies the historic victory over the Anteaters.

A 2-2 ballgame after nine innings lent itself to a whole lot of movement in the Aggie lineup, according to Peters.

“It was one of those games where you’re making changes and trying to give yourself a chance to tie the game and send it into extra innings,” Peters said. “You have to move guys around and make adjustments defensively, so the roster gets depleted.

“We needed to get some speed on the bases once we got on [base] in the ninth. We tied it up and we needed another catcher in the game.”

Brann would be the difference-maker in the next frame.

After junior Scott Lyman and junior Eric Johnson each singled in the top of the 10th, Brann stepped to the plate with one out.

With a 0-2 count, Brann reached base on a fielder’s choice, allowing Lyman to cross the plate to earn the 3-2 Aggie advantage, their first lead of the series.

According to Peters, it’s players like Brann who will get to spend more time in the field as the program already looks to prepare for the 2011-2012 campaign.

“With us not having a great season, and [we’re] going into the second half of the season, there’s no playoff opportunity for us,” Peters said. “We have to start looking at the younger guys.”

Junior relief pitcher Tom Briner got the win, holding the Anteaters scoreless through the second half of the 10th.

“It was exciting,” Peters said. “It was a close game, and then you go scratching and pawing to take the lead.”

Saturday – UC Irvine 6, UC Davis 1

Unfortunately for the Aggies, Friday’s momentum didn’t carry over into Saturday.

While junior Aggie starter Anthony Kupbens threw a decent game, the challenge was hitting a tricky Anteater pitcher.

“[UC Irvine pitcher Matt Whitehouse] pitched pretty well,” Peters said. “He had a power left-handed slider, which is something you don’t see a lot of in college baseball.”

The Anteaters scored twice in the bottom of the second and didn’t look back, en route to the 6-1 win.

“I think we made good adjustments the second time through the lineup,” Peters said, “but unfortunately, the few balls we hit hard were right at somebody.”

GRACE SPRAGUE can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.


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