Teams: UC Davis vs. Utah
Records: Aggies, (0-0); Utes, (0-0)
Where: Dobbins Stadium
When: Friday 2:30 p.m.; Saturday 1 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m.
Who to watch: Senior David Popkins was named to the American Baseball Coach’s Association/Rawlings All-West Region Second Team, and the All-Big West Conference First Team last season. He was one of just two Aggies to appear in all 54 games, and he led the team offensively with a .321 batting average and posted a team-high 63 hits and 23 RBI.
Did you know? Last season’s closer Tom Briner, who has been switched to the starting rotation for this season, recorded six saves in 2011, tying him for eighth all-time on the UC Davis single season list.
Preview: Break out the peanuts and cracker jacks, baseball is back!
The UC Davis baseball team begins the new season with a new coach — Matt Vaughn, who has been a member of the UC Davis coaching staff for over 20 years. That tenure included two trips to the Division II College World Series (1995 and 2003) and one to the Division I postseason (2008).
When asking Vaughn what he’s most excited about, it’s a very simple answer for him.
“Just to start playing games against someone in a different uniform,” Vaughn said. “We have a good mix of veteran guys and young guys, and I know they’re looking forward to start competitive action as well.”
The Aggies will be looking to reach the postseason for the first time since 2008, and Vaughn has put together a quality schedule to challenge his team and prepare them for the Big West.
“When you can look at a schedule and see teams that played in the regionals and super regionals in your schedule, it adds excitement,” Vaughn said. “Getting the chance to play teams of this caliber shows that UC Davis baseball is headed in the right direction, and serves to prepare us for the Big West schedule.”
The non-conference schedule is also highlighted by a home series against Creighton in March, the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The Bluejays advanced to the Corvallis Regional of last year’s NCAA Baseball Championships with an overall record of 45-16 and return 19 players from last season’s squad. The Aggies will also make trips to Arizona, Stanford and Hawaii — a precursor for when the Warriors join the Big West in 2013.
UC Davis lost two pitchers to Major League Baseball from last year’s staff (Scott Lyman and Joe Biagini), and Vaughn will be looking to three seniors to steady the starting rotation, but expressed that younger guys will also be counted upon.
College baseball introduced new bats in 2011, resulting in a decrease in power-hitting. Vaughn says it’s not an excuse, and that the team must find other ways to win.
“We have to take advantage of every opportunity of getting more bases,” he said. “Whether it’s taking the extra base or taking the extra pitch to draw a walk, we have to focus on playing the game the right way and a team that can execute all the traditional short-game plays will come out on top.”
The first pitch of the season will be thrown on Friday, 2:30 p.m. at Dobbins Stadium.
— Russell Eisenman