With high expectations ahead of them, the UC Davis softball team began their lengthy road schedule by traveling to Fresno this weekend to compete in the Fresno State Kick-Off.
Although the Aggies recorded two losses on the weekend, making their overall record for the season 3-2, their overall play demonstrated great potential for the future.
“I think that we wanted to come home 5-0, but having nine freshmen and four transfers, there were multiple things that we were extremely impressed [about] with this team,” said coach Karen Yoder.
As for stand-out performances, sophomore Amy Nunez stood out as essential to the team’s success for Yoder, hitting .400 on the weekend. Senior catcher Kelly Schulze, too, proved to be a force in the batter’s box, going 4-11 with three RBIs.
Friday – UC Davis 5, Southern Miss. 3
In their season-opener, the Aggies added their first “W” to their overall record with a 5-3 win over Southern Miss. In the first inning, key hits by freshman Christina Guidry and sophomore Cassandra Ginnis combined with key errors by the Golden Eagles allowed the Aggies to take command early.
With four runs scored in the first inning, the Aggies would not score again until the fifth inning, when freshman Gretchen Diekman crossed home after pinch running for Nunez.
In the bottom of the fifth, Southern Miss.’ offense came alive, scoring their first two runs after some clutch hitting off of Aggie sophomore pitcher Justine Vela.
After the fifth, Vela came back undaunted to hold the Golden Eagles to only three hits and one run in the final two innings of the game. Southern Miss. lined out in their last at-bat to give Vela the complete game win and the Aggies a 1-0 record on the season.
As a result of four errors on the game, the Golden Eagles added another loss to their record which became 1-2. Of these four errors, three were committed in the first inning, allowing the Aggies to set the pace for the rest of the game.
Saturday – UC Davis 2, Fresno State 4; UC Davis 5, UTEP 3
After nearly a one-hour time delay, the Aggies (1-0) finally took the field against host Fresno State (2-1) in their second game of the season. Fresno State came out strong, scoring all four of their runs within the first five innings.
Although the Aggies’ managed eight hits, they were unable to capitalize in scoring position as they stranded nine runners on base throughout the course of the game.
Unfortunately for the Ags, their surge for runs came too late as they scored two runs in the sixth inning and left one on base in the seventh, and the Aggies recorded their first loss against the Bulldogs.
Immediately following the culmination of the Fresno State game, the Aggies made a quick transition toward their next opponent UTEP (1-2). Still warm from their prior battle, the Aggie bats came out swinging, scoring on their third at-bat.
The Miners attempted to make a comeback, scoring a run in the third inning and then adding another two in the fifth, only to be stifled by an “en fuego” Aggie offense in the bottom of the inning. The Aggies retaliated after having their lead stolen from them, scoring four runs on only two hits and with the help of two not-so “Miner” errors.
The Aggies’ monster of a fifth inning assisted in a very much-earned victory against the UTEP Miners which culminated just at the stroke of midnight. The win went to freshman Leah Munden, who recorded her very first in an Aggie uniform.
Sunday – UC Davis 5, Southern Miss. 2; UC Davis 1, Sacramento State 2
In a replay from the first day of play in the tournament for both teams, UC Davis (2-1) took on Southern Miss. again after a quick turnaround from their midnight finish just the night prior.
In the second inning, Southern Miss. added their first run to the board, only to be countered in the bottom of the inning by four hits with three runs by the Aggies. Schulze recorded a clutch RBI single, while both junior Chandler Wagner and freshman Kaila Olson scored on an error.
In the fourth, freshman Christa Castello came up big for the Ags with a leadoff single followed by a stolen base which put her in scoring position for an RBI double by the red hot bat of Schulze.
Going into the seventh inning, the Aggies managed to maintain a 5-2 lead due to a quick one-two-three inning by winning pitcher senior Jessica Thweatt. The win moved the Aggies’ overall record to 3-1, while Southern Miss.’ dropped to 2-5.
In UC Davis’ final matchup of the weekend, the Aggies took on their Causeway rival Sacramento State in the hopes of adding another win to their solid weekend record.
After Sacramento State scored in the first inning due to a string of singles, neither team would add another tick to their hit column until the fourth inning. In the top of the inning, the Aggies came close to challenging the Hornet’s slim lead, only to strand two in scoring position.
Only in the seventh inning would the Aggies make a late charge as Guidry scored from first on a double by sophomore Krista Bava. In just the next at-bat, freshman Janelle Gusiff singled up the middle, pushing Bava from second to third, only to be thrown out on a gutsy decision to go home.
The RBI by Bava’s double would prove to be the Aggies’ sole run in a tough 1-2 loss against the Hornets.
Although experiencing a tough loss at the end, the Aggies left the Fresno State Kick-Off with a hard-fought 3-2 record.
Despite leaving Fresno with two losses, Yoder was enthused by the response she received from Aggie fans at the tournament.
“The reaction that I got from the fans was that it was really exciting to watch us. They were all highly energetic, and said that we were very competitive this weekend, which is always great to hear from our fans,” Yoder said. “They were impressed with the play and there are only positive things for us in the future.”
Although the Aggies’ first weekend into the season proved to be a success, the plot will continue to thicken this Wednesday as UC Davis hosts one of the top-ranked teams in the nation, UC Berkeley, and then travels down to Palo Alto for the weekend to compete in the Stanford Invitational.
With an intimidating schedule in the upcoming week for the Aggies, Yoder said it best. “Just one pitch at a time,” she said.
ALLI KOPAS can be reached at email@example.com.