After losing possession of first place following last week’s series against Long Beach State, UC Davis, which holds a 18-25 (8-4) record, is now back in command and in the Big West Conference championship hunt.
With two impressive shutout victories against the now-12-28 (4-8) Cal Poly Mustangs, the Aggies find themselves in a four-way tie for first place in the conference with nine Big West games left in the season.
Starting freshman pitcher Justine Vela continued her extraordinary first-year campaign, totaling 19 strikeouts and allowing zero runs in her two weekend victories. Vela kept Cal Poly’s batters off balance all series long, surrendering only five hits in her 14 innings of work.
In the Aggies’ loss, junior Jessica Thweatt also pitched well as she struck out seven and gave up only two earned runs in over four innings pitched. Unfortunately, the Mustangs would score three unearned runs in their 7-2 win, as four defensive errors crippled UC Davis.
Saturday — UC Davis 4, Cal Poly 0
UC Davis got off to a fast start in its road series when a sacrifice fly from senior Rachel Miller and an RBI double from senior Kylie Fan gave the Aggies an early 2-0 lead in the first inning.
In the bottom half of the first, Vela continued the momentum as she struck out the side.
Cal Poly found little success against Vela, who tallied 10 strikeouts during the game. UC Davis added two more runs in the fifth inning when Miller doubled to knock in freshman Cassandra Ginnis and junior Megan Guzman.
Although a Mustang single in the bottom of the fifth broke up Vela’s no-hit bid, Cal Poly never put together a substantial rally as it fell 4-0.
Saturday — Cal Poly 7, UC Davis 2
In the second game, it was the Mustang’s turn to take an early lead as Thweatt gave up two RBI singles in the first inning. She rebounded with some strong innings, however, with four strikeouts and only one hit allowed until the fifth inning.
Although an RBI single by Ginnis would make it a one-run game, two defensive errors by the Aggies in the fifth inning allowed Cal Poly to add two unearned runs and extend its lead to 4-1.
UC Davis, which added one run in the sixth, could not muster up enough extra offense to keep up with the Mustangs as the home team added three more runs in the bottom of the inning to put the game out of reach.
Sunday — UC Davis 3, Cal Poly 0
In the rubber match of the series, the Aggies, led by Vela’s second shutout of the series, took advantage of the Mustang’s mistakes to return home victorious.
Vela was even more dominant than her first outing as she only allowed two hits to go along with her nine strikeouts.
On the other side, Cal Poly — the Big West leaders in fielding percentage and fewest errors committed — made two crucial errors, which resulted in two Aggie unearned runs.
Senior Heather Zimmerman drove in one of those runs with a two-run homer in the sixth inning to seal the deal on the game and the series for the Aggies.
“This is the time when the upperclassmen have the opportunity to step up,” said Head Coach Karen Yoder. “They are putting us in crucial situations and helping us succeed.”
UC Davis travels to play No. 19 Stanford this Wednesday in its final non-conference game of the year.
DOUG BONHAM can be reached at email@example.com.