The UC Davis Aggie baseball team returns to action on Friday with a three-game series against the Texas State Bobcats in San Marcos, Texas, after finishing the 2014 season at 23-31 overall and a 7-17 conference record.
Senior outfielder Kevin Barker and senior infielder Nick Lynch will lead the UC Davis squad this year after being earning preseason accolades earlier this month. Barker, alongside 15 others, was named into the preseason all-Big West Conference first-team by College Sports Madness and by Perfect Game. College Sports Madness also awarded Lynch with second-team honors in the utility positions.
UC Davis will field an experienced lineup, returning 19 letterwinners and three of its best hit bitters from last season’s campaign: Barker, who hit at a career-high .355 average second on the team, seventh in the conference; Lynch at .308; and junior outfielder Tanner Bily, who hit a team-best average at .372.
In addition, the team added 13 players during the offseason, including a pair of junior transfers. This will help the Aggies’ depth significantly.
On the mound, the Aggies will present a pitching squad that held opponents to a .245 batting average. The rotation will feature senior right-hander Spencer Koopmans. In 2014, Koopmans recorded a 4-3 record, with a 2.84 earned-run average (ERA) while holding opposing hitters at a .258 batting average. Sophomore right-hander Zach Stone also returns after earning all-Big West Conference Honorable Mention and making an appearance on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year watch list. Stone recorded a 3-4 record and 9 saves in 25 appearances, and posted a 3.18 ERA and held opposing hitters at .202.
“It’s going to be those guys continuing to get better, continuing to make improvements” said head coach Matt Vaughn on the pitching staff. “Those three [Stone, Justin Mullins and Orlando Razo] were great coming out of the [bull]pen. Raxo will be our Saturday starter and we will also start Raul Jacobson, who was also very good outside the pen last year.”
Redshirt senior right-handed pitcher Raul Jacobson made 21 appearances last year out of the bullpen. He recorded a 4-1 record with a 3.45 ERA and held opponents to a .210 batting average.
“One of the keys this year is going to be not giving up free bases with walks and hit by pitch. I think the big key for the pitching staff is throwing strikes,” Vaughn said. “It’s a deep and good group, and every is healthy right now”
UC Davis will open the season on the road this year, something that has not been done since 2009.
“I think we’ve never had a road opener before, but we have a lot of seniors on the team and we are just looking at it like just another road series,” Barker said. “We are trying to not treat it any differently.”
The Aggies will have a long season, as they play 32 of 57 games on the road. UC Davis will also play 14 games against five teams who participated in last year’s NCAA Tournament, four of which play in the Big West Conference: Cal Poly, CSU Fullerton, Long Beach State and UC Irvine.
“With the leadership and the young talent we have, we can combine both factors and bring this program to where we want it to be,” Barker said.
Despite placing last in the preseason Big West Conference poll, the Aggies hope that they can play well against the always competitive Big West Conference. With an experienced team, the coaching staff and the rest of the team is hopeful that this season will be a good one.