As the Aggies traveled to Tempe, Ariz. this weekend to compete in the Diamond Devil Invitational, the team brought with them the volatile weather Davis has been experiencing lately. Previously in the week, the Aggies already had to reschedule their March 6 matchup against the Stanford Cardinal for May 1 due to potentially harsh weather conditions.
On the first day of play in Tempe, after completing only the top of the first inning against the New Mexico State Aggies, severe rain and hail postponed the conclusion of their encounter until Saturday.
Yet even with severe weather issues threatening the schedule of play, the Aggies proved to be contenders against their tough schedule featuring four opponents all with records over .500, culminating in the Aggies’ biggest challenge against host, and number-three ranked Arizona State.
The team split the weekend with wins against tough Notre Dame and Pittsburgh teams, aided by the offensive brilliance of sophomore Amy Nunez who batted .600 on the weekend, coming up with clutch hits to record five RBI for the Aggies.
“It was a great platform for the Aggies to compete in, and facing the caliber of teams that we did I think challenged us and gave us good opportunities to give a variety of players the opportunity to step up and be challenged,” said coach Karen Yoder.
Saturday — UC Davis 2, New Mexico State 4
Once the rain from the Friday had finally subsided,the UC Davis Aggies (9-11) versus the New Mexico State Aggies (14-7) showdown resumed play again in the bottom of the first inning on Saturday.
A pitcher’s duel, featuring freshman Leah Munden for the Aggies, led both teams into the fourth inning with empty score columns. The Aggies were able to add their first run in the top of the fourth after a clutch triple off the bat of freshman Christa Castello, who ended up batting 3-3 on the game. After giving up two back-to-back solo home runs in the bottom of the fourth, however, Munden’s no-hitter would be shattered, resulting in a 2-1 lead for New Mexico State.
The New Mexico State Aggies again added another two runs to increase their lead to 4-1 after five innings. UC Davis would not challenge offensively again until the top of the seventh when a leadoff solo home run off the bat of Nunez gave the Aggies their final run in a 2-4 loss in their first game of the tournament.
Saturday — UC Davis 5, Notre Dame 4
Following their tough loss against New Mexico State, UC Davis (9-12) looked to their second matchup of the day against a strong Notre Dame team (13-5) with the hopes of adding their first win of the tournament.
In the bottom of the second, a solo home run for senior Kelly Schulze served as the first run posted by either team. With the assistance of two untimely errors and wild pitching by the Irish, the Aggies would add another four runs to increase their sizable lead to 5-0, maintaining this without challenge until the sixth.
After holding the fighting Irish hitless through five innings, sophomore Justine Vela’s final inning would feature four hits, including a two-run homer and a solo shot in the sixth inning to allow the Aggies to cling for life with a 5-4 lead over the Irish.
However, the final surge for Notre Dame would prove to be a little too late, as the final score resulted in a 5-4 victory for the Aggies, increasing their record to 10-12, as well as improving Vela’s record to 6-1 on the season.
Sunday — UC Davis 2, Pittsburgh 0
In the Aggies’ (10-12) first game of their final day of play against the Pittsburgh Panthers (9-8), Vela proved once again to be a winning force for the Aggies, pitching a complete game shutout while allowing only one hit and retiring 14 to record her seventh win on the season to make the Aggies’ overall record 11-12.
Striking out the first two batters of the game swinging, Vela set the tone for the rest of the game early. In five out of the seven innings she pitched, Vela retired two or more batters, highlighted by a second inning where she struck out the side.
The Aggies’ offense recorded one run in the first off a timely RBI single by Nunez, and then added another to increase their lead to 2-0 in the fifth with a double by sophomore Kayla Tyler. Both Nunez and Tyler led the Aggies’ offense for the game, recording an RBI each while hitting 2-3.
Vela’s complete dominance in the pitcher’s circle aided the Aggies in their second win for the weekend.
“I know that our entire club and our entire coaching staff and the university is just blessed to have her, and I think that she is just a great competitor,” Yoder said. “She has a wide variety of pitches and continues to work on her game, and I think that she is truly coming together at the right part of the season. We are excited for what she is going to do in conference.”
Sunday — UC Davis 3, Arizona State 12 (5 innings)
In the final matchup of the tournament for the Aggies (11-12), formidable opponent Arizona State (23-1) would serve as the final opponent standing in the Aggies’ way from a solid weekend of play. Although the Sun Devil’s offensive brilliance would prove to be too much for the Aggies to overcome, UC Davis displayed admirable moments in their loss against the tournament host.
Nunez proved once again to be a powerful force for the Aggies’ offense, picking up all three RBI for the game with a single in the first, followed by a two-run home run in the third.
Despite the Aggies’ attempts to challenge Arizona State, the Sun Devils demonstrated why they are the number-three ranked team in the nation, scoring in four out of the five innings played, highlighted by a seven-run third which locked down the win.
The Aggies were not without opportunities in scoring position, however, as they stranded six on base through five innings. With the loss, the Aggies recorded their second loss for the tournament, moving their overall record to 11-13, while the Sun Devils remained with only one loss on the season, improving theirs to 24-1.
The Aggies’ weekend ahead will feature a double-header against Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday, as UC Davis looks for redemption from their 2-0 loss earlier in the season to the Roadrunners at the Stanford Invitational. Beginning on March 29, the Aggies will begin conference play as they travel to Hawai’i for a two-game series.
ALLI KOPAS can be reached at email@example.com.