The Aggies are playing with ambition.
After the first win of the three-game sweep at Dobbins Stadium this weekend, the Aggies’ motivation was clear.
“We’re really happy to get that win,” said junior catcher Scott Kalush. “We know we’re close to [Cal State] Northridge in the standings in [the Big West] Conference. We’re trying to pick it up and see if we can do well in conference. We definitely have something to play for and we’re all playing with a purpose.”
In addition to their league goals, the Aggies dedicated Saturday’s game to former Aggie baseball player Scott Heinig, which served as further inspiration.
The Aggies improved to 12-25 after the weekend series, with a league record of 6-6.
Friday – UC Davis 9, Cal State Northridge 3
With the bases loaded and two outs in the first, Kalush sent a 0-2 pitch sailing over the left field wall for a grand slam.
Kalush said he got out in front of the pitch and found the sweet spot.
But there was something else behind that hit.
“I think Heinig gave it a push,” Kalush said. “I think he was there with it, giving it a little extra push from above.”
Coach Rex Peters was pleased with the first-inning advantage, as it gave the Aggies some force for the series.
“We were way overdue for a big hit like that,” Peters said. “We haven’t gotten many of those this year, and [Kalush] came up and delivered for us, and anytime you can get four runs with one swing of the bat that certainly helps.”
With a continuous lead and a solid performance by the UC Davis pitching staff, the Aggies never looked back, en route to the 9-3 win.
Starter Scott Lyman surrendered just three runs inn seven innings, striking out four. Ryan Lucas closed the game on the mound with two scoreless innings.
Peters hoped the win would set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
“Anytime you can win the first game of the series, it’s always a good start,” Peters said.
Saturday – UC Davis 6, Cal State Northridge 0
With a pre-game ceremony and a commanding shutout victory over Cal State Northridge, UC Davis also played game two in memory of Heinig.
“This is the way the players wanted to memorialize [Heinig],” Peters said. “It was their idea, and I think it’s a good idea. It’s to memorialize him and celebrate his life as an Aggie baseball player.”
Three Aggies – Kalush, Eric Johnson and Justin Andrade – homered, while all nine UC Davis batters had at least one hit in the 6-0 win.
Starting pitcher Anthony Kupbens held the Matadors scoreless through eight innings, without allowing a single runner to advance past second base.
Nate Slater came in to relieve Kupbens in the ninth, facing just four batters to close the game.
Kalush, who played with Heinig in 2009, hit a solo shot in the fifth inning to give the Aggies the 5-0 lead.
To Kalush, the game was especially powerful.
“It means a lot to us,” Kalush said. “We were all very close with [Heinig]. He had that kind of relationship with everybody – if he knew you, you had a close relationship with him.
“Even some of the new guys that he didn’t play with, he knew all about those guys. He was here for a lot of the scrimmages in the fall. He was definitely a big support of the team.”
Sunday – UC Davis 8, Cal State Northridge 4
To snag the sweep, UC Davis came alive offensively with eight runs on nine hits.
Meanwhile, the Aggie defense, backed by starter Dayne Quist, retained the Matador bats in the 8-4 win.
UC Davis is determined to keep up the energy through the rest of the season.
“It’s Big West pride,” Peters said. “We’re going to try to get as many Big West wins as we can and finish as high as we can. Right now, we’d like to finish in the top half of the conference and at least have that positive in our pocket at the end of the year.”
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