Event: The Aggie Stampede I
Teams: UC Davis, Loyola Marymount, Nevada, Boise State
Records: Aggies (0-0); Lions (0-0); Wolfpack (0-0); Broncos (0-0)
Where: La Rue Field, Davis, California
When: Friday 1:30 p.m.; Saturday 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.; Sunday 11:15 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Who to watch: Junior outfielder Megan Guzman hit .315 last year and led the team with 18 stolen bases.
Did you know? Freshman pitcher Justine Vela was named an ESPN Rise Second Team All-American, as well as First Team All-State, Bakersfield California All-Area Player of the Year, SWYL League MVP and the Bakersfield Jockey Club Award. She batted a whopping .456 and posted a 0.11 ERA and 337 strikeouts her senior season of high school.
Preview: UC Davis softball is back in action, and they open with a four-team tournament here in Davis.
The Aggies will play in six tournaments prior to Big West Conference play this season, as head coach Karen Yoder has put together arguably the most challenging non-conference schedule in program history — which has UC Davis playing a total of 12 games against teams from the Pac-12, SEC, Big 12, Big East or ACC.
Yoder will be looking to an experienced outfield to lead the way for the Aggies.
“We have brought in such an incredible amount of speed to the outfield,” she said. “And besides the speed and quickness, they have arm strength, great readings on the ball and overall aggressiveness,”
Leading the outfield will be junior Guzman, who was second-team All Big West Conference last season. Junior JJ Wagoner will provide the team with valuable versatility. She started 24 games at catcher, 24 in left field, and four in center. In right field will be the reliable senior Kylie Fan, who started 44 games in 2011 at that position.
Yoder’s toughest task this season will be filling the void left by superstar Alex Holmes, who is now on the softball coaching staff. Not only did Holmes lead the team in hits, doubles, walks and slugging percentage, but she was also a First-Team All Conference pitcher, with 220 innings pitched and 209 strikeouts.
“Pitching is everything,” Yoder said. “That battery and that connection of that pitcher catcher is crucial. The chemistry between our pitchers and catchers improves on a daily basis, and having five pitchers in the circle this year will give us some depth that we really needed.”
Taking over for the main starting duties will be junior Jessica Thweatt, who started 24 games last season with a 3.21 ERA.
The Aggies start their action Friday against Loyola Marymount and conclude Sunday afternoon versus Boise State.
— Russell Eisenman