The UC Davis baseball team used strong pitching to secure victories in two of the first three games of a four-game series against Utah.
The opening-day win debuted new head coach Matt Vaughn, a former Aggie pitcher and longtime assistant.
UC Davis opened the new season 2-1.
Friday — UC Davis 3, Utah 0
Senior southpaw Dayne Quist was masterful in six innings, allowing just three hits with no walks and striking out 12 batters to lead UC Davis to a 3-0 victory.
Quist retired eight straight batters, including five consecutive strikeouts in the first three innings, and struck out the side in the fourth.
“Dayne was throwing all of his pitches for strikes today,” Vaughn said. “He was great at keeping his fastball down and he was able to get his off-speed [pitches] over. Utah is a pretty good hitting team, and he made it look easy.”
The Aggies scored for the first time in the fourth inning, thanks in large part to the speed of centerfielder Brett Morgan. He legged out a slow roller to shortstop, stole second, then scored on a single from freshman John Williams.
In the fifth, redshirt freshman Nick Lynch earned his first collegiate hit, Morgan doubled, and senior catcher Scott Kalush’s sacrifice fly brought home the second Aggie run. Williams picked up his second RBI of the game in the eighth inning, knocking in pinch runner Kevin Barker from second.
Saturday — Utah 7, UC Davis 1
The Utah bats came alive in the second inning, as the Utes used a three-run blast from first baseman Ethan Leiter to even the series against the Aggies.
UC Davis starter Anthony Kupbens gave up four straight hits to start the second inning, including the home run. The Utes were threatening again later in the inning, and a deep fly ball toward the right-field alley looked to be trouble, but Williams came up with a diving catch and threw to first base to double up the Utah runner.
UC Davis cut the Utah lead to 3-1 on an RBI single from Lynch in the fourth, but the Aggies committed two errors in the sixth to allow Utah to extend its lead to 6-1.
Lynch and junior Paul Politi had two hits each for UC Davis.
Sunday — UC Davis 6, Utah 2
Redshirt freshman Alex Lipson went two-for-four with three RBI and UC Davis used a four-run seventh inning to secure a 6-2 victory.
Tom Briner, who was the Aggie closer in 2011, allowed just one run in seven innings while striking out four batters. After a season of throwing around 20 pitches in a game, Briner looked nearly flawless in his new role, throwing 87 pitches in a very productive outing.
Freshman Spencer Koopmans made his Aggie debut in relief in the eighth inning, and loaded the bases with just one out. He struck out the final two batters he faced, however, and held Utah to just one run.
“A kid grew up right before our eyes out there,” said Vaughn about Koopmans. “It was a fun thing to watch, and when I went out there to talk to him, he was relaxed and told me he was going to get out of it. You don’t see freshmen like that, and it really bodes well for the future.”
UC Davis scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, Morgan’s speed causing damage again. Morgan reached after being hit by a pitch, the first of five Aggie batters hit by a pitch in this game, then stole second and third base before scoring on a bunt from Adam Young.
The UC Davis bats came to life again in the seventh inning, when David Popkins and Politi picked up back-to-back one-out singles. With two outs and a runner on third, Vaughn called for another bunt, and Morgan placed it perfectly down the third-base line to allow Popkins to score. Pinch hitter CJ Blom drew a bases-loaded walk, and Lipson’s drive up the middle brought home two more Aggie runs.
“Even with two outs we feel like we can put that play on,” Vaughn said, referring to Morgan’s two-out bunt. “Frankly, we had our best guy up there in that situation to do that. Even though he’s in the seventh hole, he does a great job for us [and] we go when that guy goes.”
RUSSELL EISENMAN can be reached at email@example.com.