In the biggest series of the season, the Aggies, who came in to the three-game battle just one game behind first place teams Long Beach State and Pacific, seized two crucial victories against the Tigers to temporarily grab first place in the Big West Conference.
The weekend series win in Stockton was marked by strong offensive performances, especially from UC Davis senior leaders Kelly Harman and Rachel Miller.
Additionally, freshman Justine Vela pitched well against the powerful bats of now 33-18 (12-6) Pacific as she rose to the challenge of pitching all but three innings over the weekend due to an injury to fellow starter junior Jessica Thweatt.
In her 17 innings pitched against the Tigers, Vela gave up only three earned runs and added 25 strikeouts to her league-leading total.
With the series win the Aggies are now 22-27 on the season and 12-6 in Big West play with just one regular season series remaining.
Friday — UC Davis 6, Pacific 4
Understanding the magnitude of the series, senior Rachel Miller made sure the Aggies made a statement in the opener on Friday. With three doubles, a single and four RBI, Miller led the Aggies in one of the team’s best offensive performances of the year.
Fellow seniors Kylie Fan and Heather Zimmerman also combined to contribute three hits to the Aggies’ attack which tallied a season-high 11 hits in the game.
“[Our] seniors realize the importance of an opportunity,” said head coach Karen Yoder. “And [they] are taking full advantage of it.”
With Miller and freshman Cassandra Ginnis scoring in the fourth inning, the Aggies would add four more runs in the top of the final inning to extend their lead to 6-0.
Vela, who racked up 11 strikeouts, had some trouble putting away the determined Tigers. Pacific scored four runs in a final inning rally before Thweatt entered and to get the final two outs and the save.
In stark contrast to the offensive excitement in the day’s previous game, the second half of Friday’s doubleheader was highlighted by a pitchers’ duel.
Saturday — UC Davis 3, Pacific 0
In the rubber match of the series, UC Davis and Pacific would play for the head-to-head advantage and tentative standing of first place in the Big West.
The Aggie offense, led by Harman’s three hit and two RBI effort, consistently pressured the Tigers as UC Davis scored in the first, third and fifth innings.
Ginnis continued her weekend success, scoring twice in the finale off of Harman doubles to bring her series total to four runs scored.
Vela put up strong numbers in her complete-game shutout as she allowed just four Tiger hits on the day to go along with ten strikeouts.
UC Davis’ regular season comes to an end next weekend when it travels to face Cal State Fullerton in a series that will determine the Aggies’ fate in the league championship race.
UC Davis currently sits two games behind conference leaders Long Beach State.
DOUG BONHAM can be reached at email@example.com.