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Davis, California

Friday, July 19, 2024

Softball preview

Teams: UC Davis vs. St. Mary’s
Records: Aggies (7-9); Gaels (3-8)
Where: Cottrell Field — Moraga, Calif.
When: Saturday at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.
Who to watch: Just this last weekend at the NFCA Leadoff Classic, sophomore pitcher Justine Vela came up big for the Aggies, proving herself worthy of the numerous honors awarded to her during her freshman year.

To truly understand Vela’s importance for the Aggies’ success on the weekend, you need only to see the numbers. Through 18.2 innings pitched, Vela boasted a 1.88 earned-run average, recording 20 strikeouts to go 2-0 for the weekend. To add the cherry on top — both of Vela’s recorded wins were complete game shutouts, in one of which she gave up only one hit.

Due to the fact that Vela’s efforts in the circle proved to be essential for the Aggies’ two recorded wins on the weekend, she earned a coveted spot among 11 others on the All-Tournament Team.

But wait, there’s more. Vela again added to her litany of awards with the honor of Big West Pitcher of the Week, an award which she earned three times last season.

Did you know? When it rolls around to the eighth inning, you might find yourself becoming easily confused by how the runner parked at second base to begin the inning got there in the first place.

Rest assured that you are not the only one feeling somewhat befuddled; however, the answer to your question is quite simple.

A unique rule to the game of softball, the International Softball Federations’ “tiebreaker rule” takes effect once a game is pushed over into extra innings. In the event of a tie through seven innings, each subsequent inning after allows teams to place the player scheduled to bat ninth in the lineup on second to assist in an accelerated finish to an already fast-paced game.

Unlike sudden-death-type rules, the “tiebreaker rule” instead allows each team the opportunity to score during the inning. The winner is crowned once both teams have batted, and one team finds itself ahead at the culmination of the entire inning.

Due to the fact that the rule does not prohibit substitutions for the runner on second, it is a strategic move to make the switch to a quicker set of wheels for the ninth batter. Other crafty moves include bunting the runner on second over to third in the hopes of increasing the chances of driving her in on the next at-bat.

Though the rule speeds up the game as intended, it can also lead to tragic and sudden losses. To demonstrate, just last weekend, the Aggies found themselves subject to the negatives of this rule as they experienced two extra-innings games which did not fall in their favor.

Preview: Going into the Aggies’ first weekend of the season that does not involve the grueling schedule and competition of a tournament, the team will compete in a less intense setting in a double-header against the St. Mary’s Gaels on Saturday.

With one challenging opponent after another throughout the Aggies’ entire season, the team will go into the weekend having amassed valuable experience in pressure situations.

One of the keys for success which the Aggies will need to focus on in order to be successful is to capitalize with runners in scoring position. In the NFCA Leadoff Classic, the Aggies did not struggle to put runners on base; however, they stranded 19 runners on the first day of play.

Despite the Gaels’ less than stellar record, St. Mary’s schedule has proved to be jam-packed with worthy opponents much like that of UC Davis. With this in mind, the team will not overlook the Gaels’ potential to win against exceptional opponents.

While both UC Davis and St. Mary’s have defeated Santa Clara and lost to Fresno State, both teams have also experienced intense matchups against top-25 teams. The Gaels’ recorded a close 1-0 loss to 23rd-ranked Hawai’i, while the Aggies scraped out an intense win against the 14th-ranked USF Bulls in a close 1-0 finish.

There is no doubt that the matchup between the Aggies and the Gaels will prove to be entertaining as both teams square off to prove themselves as prime contenders not only in their respective conferences, but also nationally.

—Alli Kopas


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