82.8 F

Davis, California

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Baseball Preview

Teams: UC Davis vs. San Jose St.; St. Mary’s
Records: Aggies (8-8); Spartans (9-8); Gaels (10-6)
Where: Dobbins Stadium; Municipal Stadium, San Jose
When:  Friday 2:30 p.m.; Saturday (at San Jose) 1 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m.; Monday 2:30 p.m.
Who to watch: Senior pitcher Tom Briner, who has made the transition from closer to starter look easy this season, pitched his first career complete game shutout last weekend. He has walked only one batter in 26.1 innings, ranking him No. 1 in the country in walks per nine innings.
Did you know? Senior Dayne Quist threw his own complete game last weekend as well, retiring 20 straight batters in the process. Quist has struck out 33 batters, ranking him No. 14 nationally and No. 1 in the Big West Conference.
Preview: The UC Davis baseball team continues to play top-level competition as it prepares itself for the grind of conference play.

The Aggies have used outstanding pitching and an excellent balance of veteran players with a talented youth movement to prove they belong.

“We have some injuries and we talked a lot about the fact that we have guys who can pick up for us,” said head coach Matt Vaughn. “It’s just a matter of getting into the right situation and executing that when we get the chance. Those guys are doing it. We’ve got a good young group of players that can step in and play and it’s been a long time since UC Davis had a group of freshmen like this who can step in and play right now.”

Senior outfielder Brett Morgan leads the Aggies in runs scored with 12 and is second in hits, while fellow senior outfielder David Popkins is second in runs and leads the team in walks with eight. Junior third baseman Paul Politi leads the team in hits (20) and RBI (11). Senior catcher Scott Kalush is the stable rock behind the plate and when he steps up to hit.

Freshman outfielder Kevin Barker leads UC Davis with a .389 average and in doubles with six. Another freshman outfielder, John Williams, has hit the only Aggie triple of the season, and is second on the team in RBI and walks. Austin March and Alex “Tino” Lipson, both freshmen, as well as sophomore Evan Wolf, have been sparks coming off the bench.

The three weekend starters (Quist, Briner and Anthony Kupbens), all seniors, as well as the entire pitching staff in general, have been exceptional. The UC Davis pitching staff has thrown a total of 106 strikeouts, while having walked just 40 batters. That 2.43 average per nine innings ranks 19th in the country. The Aggie closer, sophomore Harry Stanwyck, has a 2.19 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 12.1 innings pitched.

While this balance makes the Aggies a very dangerous team, routine plays turned into mistakes have been its demise. UC Davis has played in only four games in which they have not committed a single error, while there have been 10 games where the Aggies have committed at least two errors. If these mistakes are solved, this UC Davis baseball team could make a strong push in the Big West.

The Aggies play a three-game series versus San Jose State, alternating between Davis and San Jose, beginning Friday, although weather could postpone the series.

— Russell Eisenman


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