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Monday, September 26, 2022

UC Davis baseball drops two of three games to Hawai’i

The offense struggled to bring runners home as the Aggies lose the series at home

 

By GABRIEL CARABALLO — sports@theaggie.org

 

The UC Davis baseball team took on Hawai’i in a three game series over the weekend. It’s been a rough season for the Aggies’ baseball team, but there have been some bright spots. After beating the University of the Pacific in early April with an epic 14-11 win, the Aggies are now on a four-game losing streak. 

The Aggies faced the Rainbow Warriors in a close game on Friday afternoon; however, the start couldn’t have been worse for the team. Starting pitcher Nathan Peng began the first inning by hitting two of Hawaii’s batters, eventually leading to a 1-0 run lead for Hawai’i off zero hits. Peng only played two innings, garnered one strikeout before the bullpen was called, and pitcher Nate Freeman took the mound for the remainder of the game. 

“Freeman came in for the third inning; that was the plan,” Head Coach Tommy Nicholson said during the post-game interview. “We were hoping to get through those first couple innings with minimal damage against us. Nathan had a rough go with the first-two batters but minimized that inning by only giving up one.”

Coach Nicholson made this decision, making sure Freeman’s able to, “pitch into the eighth and ninth innings of the game.” He said Freeman could’ve pitched “two to three more innings” given how good he looked. 

Freeman and the fielding held Hawai’i for the third inning, but gave up a run late in the top of the fourth inning before closing out Hawai’i for the inning. The score now being 2-0 in favor of Hawai’i, the Aggies were able to crush out two base hits during the bottom of the fourth inning, but were unable to secure any runs or bring them in. 

During the fifth, the Aggies defense held Hawai’i to zero runs and hits. On offense, the Aggies only manifested one base hit for the inning. To begin the sixth, Freeman hit the first batter, and after a couple hits from the next batters, Hawai’i scored again. Now taking a 3-0 lead over the Aggies, it would be the final time Hawai’i scored in the game. 

The remainder of the game would go in similar fashion. The Aggies got hits, but were unable to capitalize on runners in scoring position to close the score. 

“We’ve been hitting a lot recently and I felt confident we were going to,” Nicholson said. “We just couldn’t break through and chip one here or there.” 

The Aggies were successful in out-hitting Hawai’i by 8-5 — three hits courtesy of left-fielder Nick Iverson who went 3-for-3 on the plate. However, the team was unsuccessful in hitting when it mattered most, which was a key detail in the game.  

When asked about what how he wants to improve, Nicholson said, “We’re gonna keep practicing hitting in the cages, but I think we need to do a better job of putting the ball in play with two strikes.”

Putting time in the batting cages will help in capitalizing on runners in scoring position and diminish what Coach Nicholson deems as their “achilles heel” of getting the ball in play during clutch scenarios. Hitting is one of the Aggies strengths; they just weren’t able to hit it home this time. 

Aside from batting, one of the team’s strengths was their fielding. Time and time again, the infielders and outfielders made play after play to keep the Aggies in the game. Either hustling for ground balls to get the batter out or one of their few spectacular double plays. The defense held it down as much as they could. 

“We played good defense, and even though we weren’t scoring, we were still in that game all the way to the end,” Nicholson said, emphasizing the importance of their defense.  “It was nice to see that the pitching and defense kept us in the game.” 

Coach Nicholson was not wrong about the defense. Even though their pitching was solid, some are left to wonder if not for the three pitch-out walks maybe the narrative around this game changes. Another key detail in how this game played out. 

The squad seeked to work on their achilles heel, sustain a high defense and minimize errors for the remainder of the series and season. 

On Saturday, the Aggies were able to bounce-back and secure their fourth win on the season. It was a close win over the Rainbow Warriors in a stunning 3-2 victory, as the Aggies were able to come back to score two runs in the eighth inning and the winning run in the ninth on a walk-off single by freshman infielder Nick Leehey. However, Sunday produced a crushing defeat for the Aggies in a 1-17 loss to the Rainbow Warriors to end the weekend and series —

a game that saw Hawai’i score nine runs in the ninth inning. 

UC Davis moves to 4-22 on the season and will have two non conference games — including one against Stanford — before they resume Big West play May 6-8 in Northridge against Cal State Northridge. 

 

Written by: Gabriel Caraballo — sports@theaggie.org

 

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