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Friday, April 12, 2024

UC Davis Softball 2022 season preview

The Aggies throw out the first pitch of the season with big goals in mind

By MARLON ROLON — sports@theaggie.org

For the first time in two years, fans were in attendance at La Rue Field to cheer for the UC Davis softball team. The season opener didn’t go as planned, as the Aggies fell 3-0 to Santa Clara, but it has been a long journey to get here. 

“We have fans in the stands which didn’t happen for us last year. So we’re just very excited,” UC Davis Softball head coach Erin Thorpe said.

Standout second-year pitcher Kenedi Brown started the game for the Aggies. Brown, who was named to the Big West Conference first team and first team all conference during her freshman year, started the game well, striking out three batters and did not allow a hit until the third inning. 

The home team’s offense did not do Brown any favors, going hitless until the fourth inning. UC Davis was battered with ground outs, pop flies and strikeouts for the majority of the game. Trouble started in the sixth inning for the Aggies with Brown allowing three hits and three runs. On top of that, three errors committed by UC Davis extended Santa Clara’s inning. 

UC Davis remained scoreless throughout seven innings with their bright spot at bat coming from second-years Leah Polson and Tatum Wentworth, combining for two hits. Rising prospect Brown finished the game with a loss earned and allowed three runs and seven hits with four strikeouts. 

Although the Aggies looked out of sync, this can be expected after a long offseason, as it has been nine months since their last game. 

“We’re very young; we only have seven offensive players who played on last year’s team on this [current] team,” Thorpe said. “We’re going to have some growing pains. But we’re all super excited to get started with it and start building on those things because it’s a long season.” 

New generation of players 

The softball program has revamped their roster this season, composed of seven first-years, 10 second-years, two third-years and three fourth-years. Typically, like most young teams, they will go through growing pains. The trials and tribulations of a season will garner experience that can only benefit this unit. 

“We have so many new people on the roster feeling what this means, what D1 softball means, how it works and how we play because our prep travel teams are very different from what they’re going to experience here at the collegiate level,” Thorpe said. “A lot of it is just kind of getting the feeling and how they can be the most beneficial to help the team win.” 

This young team is led by seniors Claudia Kim, Delaney Diaz and Sierra Hillman. One of the best prospects of the team is Kenedi Brown, who last season as a freshman made an impact on the mound. She started 24 games in 29 appearances going 13-11 posting 2.69 ERA. 

“I have actually been working on two new pitches because there’s a lot of film out there that people watch, and people see your tendencies so if you can come up with something every season it makes you unpredictable it makes you really good,” Brown said. 

Like Brown, great players take the extra step to better their craft. Brown said she worked on her strength in the weight room over the summer. She said it’s not a requirement to do so but took the extra step to improve her game. Sometimes it’s the little things that create separation from the good players and the great players. 

“I’ve learned to connect with my defense and the hitters, and I feel like when we’re all connected, when we’re all talking together, it allows us to feel like one team like I’m not out there by myself,” Brown said. “I have so many people behind me so it’s just really supportive.” 

First-years Reese Mattley, Grace Kilday, Grace Tangen, Sophia Eftekhari, Mia Hildebrand, Bella Holtz and Ale Mota will look to cement their place within the program.

“It’s going to be a lot of learning curves and we’re already seeing some really good things and we’re seeing some things that we know that we want to be better for tomorrow,” Thorpe said. “We’re expecting to come in and be ready to go by conference and really excited to bring it to the Big West.”

The new generation of players and second year prospects brings excitement to the program’s culture. The UC Davis softball program has high standards embedded within their culture and playing for a prestigious university can maximize the new prospects’ potential. 

“I think our energy is awesome, we love being out here, everyone loves each other and we push each other. It’s a really healthy environment to grow and build as a team,” Brown said. 

A look ahead

UC Davis finished the 2021 season with 19 wins and 24 losses and went 13-11 in conference play. A turbulent season in the midst of COVID-19 and no fans in attendance affected the team’s performance. 

This season will feature a full 53-game schedule as it stands. The Aggies will participate in the NorCal Kickoff and Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic tournament, in addition to their conference play in the Big West.

On Feb. 12, the Aggies will host Saint Mary’s and Montana. On Feb. 13, Davis will host Saint Mary’s again. UC Davis will travel to Fresno to play Fresno State in a three-game series between Feb. 19-20. The Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic tournament will be held in Cathedral City, between Feb. 24-26. The Aggies will face great teams from around the nation like Tennessee, San Diego State, Arizona, Utah and California Baptist.

UC Davis returns home on Mar. 1 to face Northern California rival Stanford. On March 5, they will host Dixie State and rivals Sacramento State back to back. On March 6, they will travel to Sacramento to play Sacramento State and Dixie State. 

The Aggies will then travel to Santa Clara on March 11 to play two back to back games against Utah State and Santa Clara. On March 12, the Aggies will travel to San Jose to play Utah State and San Jose State on the same day. Then, on March 13, UC Davis will play Idaho State. 

From March 19-20, Davis will host Cal State Fullerton in a three game series to start Big West play. Boise State comes into town on March 23 to play the Aggies.

Long Beach State will host UC Davis on March 26-27 in a three game series. On March 29, the Aggies will travel to Stockton to play University of the Pacific. On April 2-3, UC Davis will host CSU Bakersfield. The Aggies will travel to Riverside on April 8-9 for a three game series. Then, on April 15-16, CSU Northridge will travel to Davis for a three game series. April 19 will feature UC Davis vs. UC Berkeley. 

The Aggies will travel to San Diego on April 22-23 to play UC San Diego in a three game series. On April 29-30 the Aggies will host UC Santa Barbara in a three game series. 

As the season winds down, the Aggies will travel to San Luis Obispo from May 6-7 for a three game series against Cal Poly. Lastly, UC Davis will close the season, May 13-14, hosting Hawaii in a three game series. 

UC Davis has a long season ahead but the team is confident that they can collectively put the pieces together to make a run at a conference championship, a feat that has not been accomplished since 2010. Although the roster is composed of mostly first-years and second-years, they are well coached by Erin Thorpe who led the Aggies to their first ever winning season in 2018 since the merger to Division 1. The program has a rising star in the making, Kenedi Brown, who in her second season is the team’s starting pitcher and their best player. If the Aggies can get past the growing pains throughout the rigorous season then they could really make some noise in the postseason. 

“Our common goal as a unit is, we all want to be Big West champs,” Brown said. “I think this year, seeing what we had last year and seeing what we have now, I think it’s really, really achievable.” 

Written by: Marlon Rolon — sports@theaggie.org


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