UC Davis Baseball Season Preview

UC Davis Baseball Season Preview

Photo Credits: QUINN SPOONER / AGGIE

The Aggies look to show improvement in 2019

With spring rapidly approaching, the UC Davis baseball team is ready to take a step toward its 2019 season led by Head Coach Matt Vaughn. After posting a 18-35 overall record last year, the Aggies hope to bounce back as they return some of their top hitters from 2018.

Sophomore shortstop Tanner Murray wants to improve off of a very impressive freshman season where he batted .333 with 64 hits and 22 RBI’s. He earned the Big West Freshman Field Player of the Year as well as a spot on the All-Big West Second team.

Murray will likely be a big piece for the Aggies going forward as will senior infielder Cameron Briggs. Briggs finished third on the team last year in batting average with a .296 as well as 42 hits and seven doubles in 44 games.

As for sophomore infielder Joseph Myers, his second year brings a lot of excitement as well. After posting a .328 batting average to go along with 40 hits in just 39 games, he also earned a spot on the All-Big West Second Team.

On the mound, senior lefty Chris Brown will be the veteran presence in the rotation. He comes off of a year where he posted a 5.14 ERA in 14 starts to go with 35 strikeouts. He also tied his teammate, sophomore right-hander Jared Sasaki, with four wins.

Sasaki earned his way into the rotation and started in 13 games. He finished the season with a 4.34 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 76.2 innings. Fellow right-handed sophomore Brett Erwin appeared in 20 games out of the bullpen and became an All-Big West Honorable Mention.

To round out the rotation on the mound, senior right-hander Blake Hannah looks to build off his 2018 campaign in which he started 12 games and had 22 strikeouts in 35.2 innings.

This year’s key players will have to elevate their game after the loss of big players like Ryan Anderson, who led the conference in batting average and the team in RBI’s, finishing as an honoree of the All-Big West First Team. Ryan Hooper, Alex Aguiar and pitchers Matt Blais and Connor Loar all graduated as well, meaning that there remain several spots on this year’s team that will need to be filled.

After last year’s big wins over St. Johns and Oregon, the Aggies look to have more statement wins this year. They play four games versus teams in the national top 25 rankings this season. One of those games will be at Stanford, who was 12th in the national preseason rankings. Last season, the Aggies barely lost 3-2 at Dobbins Stadium to Stanford, so they will look to make a statement when they travel to Klein Field on April 16th.

The other opponent in the top 25 happens to be a team in the Big West Conference, Cal State Fullerton. The Titans are ranked 25th and were the coaches preseason poll pick to win the Big West once again. UC Davis travels to Fullerton for a three game stretch in May. Other notable opponents include Pac-12 conference teams Arizona State and Utah, where the Aggies will travel this season as well.

After finishing eighth in the Big West Conference last year, the Aggies are expected to finish in that same spot this upcoming year according to the coaches preseason poll. UC Davis wasted little time in its attempts to prove the doubters wrong, as the start of the 2019 season came with a doubleheader sweep. After getting rained out Friday, the Aggies were victorious in both games against the University of Northern Colorado on Saturday.

In the first game, the Aggies got a couple of great pitching outings from Erwin and senior lefty Chase Lyford in an 11-2 win. Erwin started the game and went for five innings, giving up only one earned run on four hits to go along with four strikeouts. In his relief came Lyford, who pitched the rest of the way while only giving up one run on three hits. After taking the lead 2-1 in the 3rd inning, the Aggies never looked back, as they scored nine more runs and finished the game with 11 hits.

In the second half of the doubleheader, the Aggies were in a jam in the top of the 2nd inning, already down 1-0. The bases were loaded with one out, until a double play by sophomore infielder Kyler Arenado limited the damage and ended the top half of the inning. The first homerun of the season for the Aggies came right after Arenado’s key defensive play, when Briggs hit the first of his career to left field in the bottom of the 2nd. The game remained a tight battle until the 4th inning, when a double by senior outfielder Garret Kelly brought home two runners, followed by a steal and balk that brought him home as well. The Aggies scored five more in the following inning to go on and win 9-2.

“Obviously when you win two, very happy with it. Especially after the past two weeks it’s been raining and the tarp has been coming on and off,” Vaughn said. “For our guys to come out here ready, it was big deal.”

When asked about his thoughts on his team this year moving forward, Vaughn did say it was early, but he felt good about his team.

“We feel like we’re a lot better this year and we’re going to play that way.” Vaughn said. “The guys have done a great job working towards it and you just gotta make progress everyday. It’s a good start but one day at a time.”

The Aggies finished off their series against Northern Colorado with a 12-0 win on Sunday. After a quick one-gamer at home against Nevada on Tuesday, the Aggies now head to Tempe, Arizona for a three game series against Arizona State this weekend.

Written by: Omar Navarro — sports@theaggie.org