In front of a large crowd, the Aggies – in their final home series of the season – won two of three games against the now-24-28 (9-6) UC Santa Barbara Gauchos.
UC Davis 20-26 (10-5), which came into the weekend in a four-way tie for first place in the Big West Conference, now trails California State University, Long Beach and University of Pacific by just one game for the league lead with six games left in the season.
The Aggies took the first two games of the series thanks to fantastic play by junior Kelly Schulze, who drove in four runs off of three hits in Saturday’s two games.
Starting pitchers freshman Justine Vela and junior Jessica Tweatt also gave great performances on the mound, combining for 35 strikeouts and only seven runs allowed in the weekend’s games.
With Sunday’s game being the final home contest of the season, seniors Kylie Fan, Kelly Harman, Rachel Miller, Heather Zimmerman and Allison Smith were honored before the game in front of their friends and family.
Saturday — UC Davis 4, UC Santa Barbara 2
UCSB started off fast in the first inning with a sacrifice fly off of Vela, giving the Gauchos the early 1-0 lead.
The Aggies responded strongly, however, with hits by Schulze in the second and third innings driving in Fan both times. During the early innings UC Davis also capitalized on Gaucho mistakes, as an illegal pitch and fielding error allowed the Aggies to add two unearned runs to make the score 4-1 after the third.
Although UCSB’s Keilani Jennings cut the lead in half with a fourth-inning home run, Vela was later able to command the game and tally 11 strikeouts in her complete-game win.
Saturday — UC Davis 4, UC Santa Barbara 3 (nine innings)
The first day of play ended with a nine-inning thriller that saw the Aggies pull off a walk-off victory.
Tweatt came out attacking as she racked up a career-high 13 strikeouts and only four hits allowed through six innings.
After scoring off a fielding error in the previous inning, freshman Amy Nunez added two more runs in the fourth when she blasted a home run over the left-field fence to give UC Davis a 3-0 lead.
Following a one-run sixth inning, a seventh-inning rally by the Gauchos tied the game at 3 to send it into extra innings.
With neither team scoring in the eighth inning, the Aggies capped off their great Saturday when sophomore Felicia Baldwin scored the winning run off of a run-batted-in single by Schulze.
Sunday — UC Santa Barbara 2, UC Davis 1
The Gauchos were able to spoil UC Davis’ Senior Day as they pulled out the victory in the low-scoring pitcher’s duel to avoid the sweep.
With two first-inning doubles, UCSB gained an early 1-0 advantage and would never relinquish the lead.
Although Vela – with the help of some great defensive plays – would settle down in the following innings, the Aggie offense was never able to find a similar rhythm, as UC Davis managed only three hits.
“We had poor pitch selection today,” said Head Coach Karen Yoder. “And we didn’t have timely hitting like we did yesterday.”
While a sixth-inning home run by Miller that cut the Gaucho lead to 2-1 gave UC Davis some hope for a Senior Day comeback, UCSB starter Shelby Wisdom remained strong enough to seal the victory.
The Aggies travel to face conference leader Pacific this weekend in a crucial Big West battle.
DOUG BONHAM can be reached at email@example.com.