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Davis, California

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Aggies show glimpse of bright future in another series win

UC Davis baseball stays hot before season suspended

The UC Davis baseball team wrapped up its third series win in four tries with a resounding 15-3 demolition of visiting Mount St. Mary’s under drizzly skies at Dobbins Stadium last weekend. The Aggies are continuing to pile up victories and build momentum in the early non-conference stretch of a 56-game schedule. 

As things stand, the team holds an early 9-7 record, but it is unclear what will happen with the rest of the season after indefinite suspensions were issued to all UC Davis winter and spring sports following the outbreak of COVID-19. For now, the athletics department is simply following the guidance of the Big West conference and most other academic institutions around the country. 

If the baseball season were to resume at some point in the spring, it’s hard to see the Aggies being able to complete the remaining 40 games on their schedule. There will be many obstacles to overcome — most notably, travel arrangements and scheduling conflicts — so a shortened season seems like the most realistic outcome, if the season continues at all. 

Many college baseball players participate in independent summer leagues in June and July, so those commitments would have to be accounted for as well. Overall, it’s an unfortunate situation for the thousands of amateur athletes across the country who spend the entire year preparing to play a full season. But at the end of the day, necessary actions must be taken to protect the health and well-being of everyone involved. 

The Aggie baseball team had developed a consistent winning formula through four weeks of play, getting solid starting pitching performances from a young rotation and crucial late inning work from an even less-experienced group of relievers. All of this is complemented by a stalwart defense and a veteran, star-laden lineup. 

Junior opening day starter Brett Erwin has been rock solid at the top of the rotation and came through once again in last Friday’s 5-2 series opening win. Erwin tossed six quality innings, yielding a pair of unearned runs, and managed to work out of multiple jams in the middle innings. In multiple situations with runners in scoring positions, he was able to keep his composure and induce several ground balls, in addition to some key strikeouts. 

In the fourth inning on Friday, Mount St. Mary’s scored the first runs on a two-run double to left center field, but the Aggies pulled off a beautiful relay to get the final out at home plate with sophomore center fielder Jalen Smith and junior shortstop Tanner Murray providing the assists. UC Davis rarely finds itself making unforced mistakes in the field, but the team was quick to atone for an earlier outfielding error with a brilliant team effort to end the scoring threat. 

The redemption continued in the bottom half of the inning when the Aggies put up a four-spot to take the lead. Freshman first baseman Michael Campagna was the latest youngster to make his mark, lining a two-run single to right. 

Freshman right hander Kaden Riccomini wrapped things up with three no-hit innings to earn his first career save. Outside of a rough first inning against North Dakota State two weeks ago, Riccomini has allowed just three runs in nearly 16 innings on the mound. His role in the pitching staff will only expand further if he keeps putting up outings like this. 

In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, sophomore starter Jake Spillane kept his own hot streak going with a nearly spotless seven inning gem, giving up just five hits and a run with five strikeouts. Spillane was extremely unlucky to wind up with the loss, but the Aggie bullpen let things unravel in a five-run eighth inning. Facing a daunting 8-1 deficit in the bottom of the ninth, the home team mounted a furious two-out rally but came up short in the 8-5 final. 

In the nightcap, the Aggies let out all their frustrations while racking up 13 runs in the first three innings and ultimately notching 18 hits in the 15-3 rout.

Murray set the table in the leadoff spot, going 4-for-5 with a triple and three RBI’s, and freshman second baseman Nick Iverson drove in the first three runs of his young career. Redshirt-junior designated hitter Spencer Gedestad enjoyed a four-hit day of his own, adding to his blistering .421 batting average in the heart of the lineup. 

On the mound, the Aggies stuck to their normal routine, as sophomore Nolan Meredith went five and a third innings before handing it over to a bullpen that allowed only one hit the rest of the way. After a rough outing against Loyola Marymount last weekend, freshman southpaw Zach Carrell got back on track with a perfect five-out display and two punchouts. 

Overall, the Aggies have to be feeling pretty good about themselves through the first four weeks of action. This is a young squad still finding out a ton about itself, but one that is also learning how to react in every different type of ballgame it encounters. And this team has pretty much seen it all thus far, from blowouts and one-run nail biters to 24-inning marathons that span two days. 

The one commonality in nearly every loss has been long innings in the field when the Aggies implode and concede bunches of runs at a time. If UC Davis can learn to dust itself off in the face of adversity and stop the bleeding before it gets out of hand, this team has the potential to prove a lot of doubters wrong. 

Of course, there is still a long way to go and doubts over whether the team will even be able to complete its season, but UC Davis is adding to the win column every week and providing hope for a very bright future. Almost everywhere you look, there are reminders of the budding underclass talent developing before our eyes. For a program that hasn’t given fans a lot to get excited about in recent years, this year’s roster is finally proving that it is possible to have a successful baseball team in Davis, and there are adequate resources present to build a winner. 

There will be many ups and downs in the coming months, but that shouldn’t distract from the progress that is being made at Dobbins Stadium. If things continue along the same trajectory, there’s no reason why the Aggies can’t be a force to be reckoned with in the Big West Conference in the coming years. 

Written by: Brendan Ogburn — sports@theaggie.org


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