Hooper’s big bat propels Aggies past Anteaters

KAILA MATTERA / AGGIE FILE

UC Davis men’s baseball defeats UC Irvine 4-2 in final season game

Earning a 4-1 win the day before and with the weekend series tied at 1-1, the UC Davis Aggies men’s baseball team wanted to send its seven graduating seniors out with a final win at Phil Swimley Field on May 26.

It was a rough start for the Aggies when the Anteaters hit a deep, “no doubt about it” home run to left field early in the top of the second to earn the 1-0 lead. UC Davis pitcher Chris Brown did not let the home run discourage his already troubling earned run average (5.14), finishing the inning with two groundouts and a flyout to keep the deficit low.

In the bottom of the fourth, senior right fielder Ryan Hooper stepped up to the plate. Leading the team with six home runs in the season, fans cheered on the senior to make something happen. Going against a tough Irvine pitcher with an ERA just above 2.00, Hooper cracked a ball curving to the left field wall, just barely getting over the fence to give the Aggies the 2-1 lead.

“I kind of had a good idea [about the home run],” Hooper said. “I am kind of always scared to think it’s a home run so I ran pretty hard in case it didn’t go out. I hit it pretty hard and it had a shot and went over.”

UC Davis continued to produce offensively, as freshman shortstop Tanner Murray drove in a run to right center field in the bottom of the fifth to increase the Aggie lead to 3-1.

In the top of the seventh, the Anteaters drove in a run to cut the UC Davis lead to one. With runners on second and third and two outs in the bag, freshman reliever Tim Wieser came to the mound to try and end the inning. On a bouncing ball through the left infield that looked as though the Aggies game was done, a hustling Murray scooped the ball, making a jumping throw mid-stride to get the runner out a first and end the inning. Murray’s impressive performance this season (.333 BA, 27 runs, 22 RBI) earned him Big West freshman field player of the year earlier last week, the first Aggie ever to earn this award.

“If we have footage of that and can get it to SportsCenter, they will put it on [TV],” head coach Matt Vaughn said regarding Murray’s defensive play. “The kid is unbelievable. When you have a guy like that to build around, it’s gonna be a lot of fun [moving to next year]. I think the future looks good here but we have to keep getting better and win those close games.”

The Aggies were able to drive home one more run in the bottom of the eighth on a fielder’s choice play at third base. Senior star reliever Connor Loar pitched the last three innings for UC Davis, only giving up one hit to bring his career ERA to an overall 1.62 to end his pitching career as an Aggie.

UC Davis finished the season with an 18-35 overall record and a 9-15 conference record, but Vaughn is impressed with the team’s constant hard work and chemistry playing together.

“We were out of it two weeks ago,” Vaughn said. “It’s been tough for these guys to come out everyday and keep giving it but they just kept doing it. One thing we have done all year long is be in these close games, now we just need to find ways to win these close games, and today we did that.”

After the game, UC Davis’ seven seniors celebrated the win by snapping photos next to their numbers painted in the grass. It was a perfect way to end all the work put in to UC Davis baseball, according to Hooper.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Hooper said. “Definitely happiness and trying to hold back some tears. Obviously we didn’t have the season we wanted but this is the closest team of 35 that I have been on since I have been here. I am going to keep playing baseball but not with these guys [anymore] but I am just enjoying it.”

 

Written by: Ryan Bugsch — sports@theaggie.org

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