Teams: UC Davis vs. Cal State Bakersfield
Records: Aggies (11-13); Roadrunners (2-13)
Where: Roadrunner Softball Complex — Bakersfield, Calif.
When: Saturday at noon and 2 p.m.
Who to watch: Leading the Aggie offense during their weekend away in Tempe, Ariz., sophomore Amy Nunez proved to be a vital component to the team’s success, batting .600 in the Aggies’ two days of play. Nunez’s bat began to heat up during crucial situations in the Diamond Devil Invitational, recording five RBIs over the entire weekend, with four on the final day of play.
Coach Karen Yoder attributes Nunez’s recent success behind home plate to her diligent work ethic and constant strive for success. There is no doubt that the team will rely on Nunez as a go-to leader once the Aggies’ conference games begin starting on the 29th of this month.
“She has been really focused and has been doing a lot of extra things on the side in terms of tape analysis and asking a lot of questions, and really being open to help from the coaching staff,” Yoder said. “I think that that is key when an athlete is willing to study film and want their abilities to be even better. That hard work pays off and that is exactly what she has done. She has put in the extra time and energy truly preparing for competition.”
Nunez’s offensive prowess this season is displayed in her team-high batting average with .309, and the team’s highest slugging percentage by far with an enviable .471.
Did you know? During her first year as an Aggie last year, sophomore Justine Vela managed to boast an enviable 20-17 record, while finishing with 272 strikeouts and a 2.12 ERA on the year. Such stats landed Vela an endless list of awards including the title as the Big West Conference Freshman Pitcher of the Year, topped by her title as the Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year.
Currently with 24 games under her belt in her sophomore season and 28 more to go, Vela possesses a 7-1 record, accompanied by a 2.28 ERA and 76 strikeouts. Out of her 12 starts on the season, six have resulted in complete games, while her opponents’ batting average has been a dismal .183.
With not even half the season complete, and conference games still on the horizon for the Aggies, there is no denying that Vela has been and will continue to be an essential component to the Aggies’ continual success.
Preview: After splitting the weekend against a stacked schedule hosted by the nationally ranked No. 3 team in the country, Arizona State, the Aggies left the weekend with a successful record of 11-13.
Recently, the Aggies have been maintaining their pitching dominance, but have since improved their offense, capitalizing with runners in scoring position more consistently and leaving fewer runners stranded. A variety of players, including both Nunez for the offense and Vela for the defensive side, have proved themselves to be leaders for the entire team.
With a young and inexperienced team this year, the Aggies have proved themselves to be up to the multiple challenges featured in their schedule. In fact, Yoder believes that the team has not only benefitted significantly from their pre-conference schedule, but have also placed themselves in the perfect position with their conference starting in a few weeks.
“We are in a good position in the season, and we are just really excited about our last three non-conference games before we open up conference,” Yoder said.
The weekend ahead features a double header in Bakersfield against the familiar Roadrunners of CSU Bakersfield. Although the Roadrunners defeated the Aggies in UC Davis’ second tournament of the season, the Stanford Invitational, the Aggies have since refined their game and will be more than prepared for the challenge ahead of them.
Despite the Aggies’ previous loss to the Roadrunners, Yoder expressed positivity about her team’s prospects not only for the weekend, but for the rest of the season.
As for the strategy in the Aggies’ quest for redemption this weekend, Yoder stressed the fact that the team just needs to continue doing what they are doing.
“If we do the things that we need to do, that we did this past weekend, then the Aggies will prevail this weekend. It’s in our hands, not theirs,” she said.
— Alli Kopas