Photo Credits: Quinn Spooner / Aggie. UC Davis infielder Jonah Henrickson (15) slides into first base during a game against North Dakota State on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2019 at Dobbins Stadium in Davis, California.
Arenado’s walk off propels UC Davis to 5-3 start
The UC Davis baseball team is off to a hot start and hastily building confidence two weeks into the 2020 season.
The Aggies are getting contributions from up and down the roster, regardless of age or experience, and have played themselves into an early winning run at Dobbins Stadium.
UC Davis took three out of four games against North Dakota State over the weekend, culminating in a doubleheader sweep on Saturday afternoon and a dramatic 3-2 comeback win in the nightcap.
Trailing 2-1 for the majority of the game, the Aggies found themselves five outs away from defeat when junior shortstop Tanner Murray stepped up to the plate, representing the game’s tying run. Murray promptly drilled an 0-1 pitch nearly 400 feet and over the fence in straightaway left field, sending the home dugout into a frenzy. It was a huge sigh of relief for UC Davis who had failed to reach base in its previous 10 at-bat’s, starting all the way back to the fifth inning.
“We were struggling in that second game to put a good offensive approach together,” said UC Davis Head Coach Matt Vaughn. “Tanner gets the big swing and it kind of wakes our guys up a little bit and then we started having some quality at-bats and luckily it wasn’t too late.”
In the bottom of the ninth, the Aggies put runners on the corners after a walk and throwing error. Redshirt-sophomore third baseman Kyler Arenado lined a walk off RBI single to right-center field, sending everyone home happy. The entire Aggie bench bolted out of the dugout to mob Arenado, as a big celebration commenced in shallow center field.
The Aggies stand at 5-3 after two weeks of play, grabbing series wins over Utah and North Dakota State and falling to USF in between.
The biggest question heading into the season was the Aggie pitching staff and its ability to give the team a chance to win every time out. So far, a quartet of freshman hurlers — Kaden Riccomini, Zach Carrell, Nate Freeman and Kai Janowicz — has given the team a big boost and provided quality innings, especially in middle relief.
“It’s exciting when those freshmen can build a little confidence and start figuring out ‘Hey I belong here,’ and now you can start doing some really good things,” Vaughn said.
In Thursday’s series opener — a 6-2 victory for the Aggies — Freeman came out of the bullpen and finished off the victory with three and a third no-hit innings and three strikeouts.
Riccomini got the start on Friday and was roughed up in a seven-run first inning, giving up four earned runs. But the young right hander battled out of it and went another three scoreless frames before exiting. This was a critical performance for the Aggies, who needed to conserve their arms in advance of the doubleheader the next day.
Carrell was a key contributor in the final game of the series, throwing three and a third scoreless frames in the middle innings to keep the Aggies within striking distance before their late comeback. Janowicz pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, setting the stage for the dramatic finish in the bottom half.
“Carrell was awesome,” Vaughn said. “He was pounding the zone and only got behind one guy in that whole time.”
Overall, sophomore Jake Spillane has emerged as the ace of the staff so far, allowing just 10 hits in 13 innings of work and winning both of his starts. He cruised through seven strong innings in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, striking out seven and giving up two runs.
Defensively, UC Davis has been sturdy at every position, committing just one error in eight games. Although that one mistake led to three unearned runs in Friday’s 7-4 defeat, UC Davis has been as dependable as expected in the field.
“We’re a solid defensive team and if we just throw strikes we’re always going to have a chance to win games,” Vaughn said.
At the plate, the Aggies have a half dozen players hitting above .300 and the top of the lineup has picked up right where it left off last season. Redshirt-junior designated hitter Spencer Gedestad has been a mainstay in the heart of the lineup with 11 hits and a .407 average. Elsewhere, players such as sophomore Jalen Smith, redshirt-junior Alejandro Lara, redshirt-senior Logan Denholm and Murray are consistent threats every time they step into the box.
The Aggies will continue their non-conference schedule with three more home series over the next four weekends, starting with Loyola Marymount University on Friday. The team is already making strides on the diamond thus far and hopes to keep the momentum rolling before Big West play begins at the end of March.
Written by: Brendan Ogburn — email@example.com