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Sunday, October 2, 2022

Aggies continue slump — drop two of three against the Gauchos

UC Davis Softball lose three-game series at home and are now 3-10 in the last 13 games 

By MARLON ROLON — sports@theaggie.org

Consistency has been an issue in the second half of the season for the UC Davis softball team — some games the pitching is firing on all cylinders but the batters can’t seem to connect, while other games the pitching is off and the batters are hot. 

“We’ve gotta come out with more people firing and more people ready to go,” said UC Davis Softball Head Coach Erin Thorpe in the post-game interview. “We’re trying to find that consistency; we’re still like some on and some off. Who’s on a good day today? We have to learn we have to be consistent as a group, and if we’re not consistent as a group, and if we don’t have all cylinders firing at the same time, anybody can take us down on any given day.”

UC Santa Barbara did just that on Friday afternoon beating the Aggies 3-2 at La Rue Field in game one of the series.

Pitcher Kenedi Brown, who leads the Big West in ERA 1.65, started the game on the mound for UC Davis. The sophomore has been sensational all season long but looked out of sync early in the game. She allowed one run with two hits in the first inning.

Brown had a runner on second and third base, but got out of trouble when she struck out Santa Barbara’s third-year outfielder Tyler Goldstein to end the inning. 

Despite the consistency issues for the Aggies, in the bottom of the first senior Delaney Diaz hammered the ball toward right field and out of the ballpark, marking her fourth home run of the season. 

“Delaney can come up big everytime that she comes up,” Thorpe said. “She’s working through trying to figure out how to attack each at bat. She does a really good job seeing the ball throwing a barrel at it; the biggest thing is she’s just a consistent fighter, and that keeps her as consistent as she’s been.” 

 Action picked up in the top of the third with the Gauchos at the plate. Brown got two quick outs but walked her batter third-year catcher Teah Thies. Things quickly went downhill from there — Goldstein singled to left field advancing Thies to second base. Then, second-year Korie Thomas attempted a bunt, but second-year infielder Bella Pahulu threw it wide to first base, recording an error while Thies crossed home plate. 

Still in the same inning, the Gauchos had their players on first and third base confuse the Aggies when they both attempted a double steal. Second-year Libbie McMahan threw it high to home plate after a rundown and the runner scored, increasing the Gauchos lead 3-1. Eventually, Brown got them out of there to end the inning.

In a move to start the next inning, Erin Thorpe pulled Brown. Typically, the star pitcher efficiency and stellar play allows her to play the entire game but Thorpe wanted to attempt something different. 

“We took her out, the score was 3-1, we haven’t been scoring a ton. We need to switch up the JuJu a little bit, I think that’s really what it was,” Thorpe said when asked why the change of pitchers. “We could feel the energy wasn’t where it needed to be, and I think we just needed to make some changes there. [It was] nothing that Kenedi did specifically; overall, we needed to do some things and shake some things up a little bit. Ken pitched fine, she threw a few too many balls today. I think we struggled in general figuring out what the zone was.”

Second-year pitcher Sara Reineman came in relief, playing well enough to keep Santa Barbara scoreless. Sometimes a fresh arm is needed to ignite some problems for the opposing batters and Reineman did just that.

Although she allowed three hits in four innings of play, she struck out one batter and did not allow any runs.

The Aggies’ opportunity came in the bottom of the sixth when first-year Reese Mattley’s base hit bounced to left field right through the legs of the outfielder, rolling to the wall and giving Anna Dethlefson enough time to cross home plate. Mattley reached third base. Down 3-2 with a runner in scoring position the Aggies could not bring Mattley home, as second-year Tatum Wentworth grounded out to end the inning.

Reineman pitched well in the seventh, keeping Santa Barbara hitless. The defense also did their part on a stellar double play to end the top of the inning giving the Aggie offense one last chance for a comeback. 

In the bottom of the seventh, third-years Alyssa Ito, Summer Kisling and Libbie McMahan were the designated batters. Ito popped a fly ball for the quick out and then Kisling hit to the shortstop in what looked like an easy out. But the ball bounced off the glove giving Kisling enough time to reach first off an error.

However, McMahan hit the ball to the shortstop for an easy out. With two outs and a runner on base, it came down to Delaney Diaz, who homered earlier. Diaz hammered the ball down to center-field near the wall it appeared it had a chance to be a home run — but the ball did not have enough under it and fell just short to end the game. 

“Runner in scoring position, but we had one to many outs before we could get it done. Delaney put a good barrel on the ball and unfortunately hit right to somebody, but if we adjust earlier and we do what we need to do earlier, we’re not put in that situation,” Thorpe said. 

A doubleheader awaited both teams the following day, and Brown got another opportunity on the mound. The second-year played fantastic, looking like one of the best pitchers in the Big West. 

Brown allowed two runs off six hits and struck out eight, helping the Aggies secure the win 10-2 in the first game of the double header. 

In the third inning with Dethlefson on second, Mattley came up big again with a single to left field that gave Dethlefson just enough time to run past third base and slide home.

Still in the same inning with the bases loaded, first-year pitcher Grace Kilday was walked to bring Mattley home making it 2-0.

In the bottom of the sixth inning with the score 2-2, UC Davis would let the bats fly scoring eight runs in the inning. With the bases loaded, McMahan hit her first career home run — a grand slam. The Aggies would score on walks with the bases loaded, prompting the game to end at the end of six innings 10-2. With the win, Coach Thorpe would earn her 399 career win — one win shy from the 400 club.

In the second game of the double header and the series finale, UC Davis would fall short 6-2. This time, Taylor Fitzgerald would get the nod to start on the mound for the Aggies.

The Gauchos got off to a fast start scoring two runs off two hits in the second inning. In the top of the fourth, Fitzgerald would find herself in a bit of trouble; she allowed a walk, a hit and a run scored. The Gauchos were in control 3-1.

Then in the bottom of the fourth, senior Sierra Hillman smacked the ball down the right field line for an RBI, cutting the deficit to two. 

In the top of the fifth, Thorpe pulled Fitzgerald from the mound for Reineman. However, Reineman allowed three hits right away and the Gauchos capitalized, scoring three runs to make it 6-1. 

In the sixth inning Thorpe would once again make a pitching change. Freshman Mia Hildebrand would come in relief for Reinemen who only pitched for one inning. Hildebrand did well, allowing just one hit in two innings of play. 

UC Davis would go on to lose 6-2, making it 10 losses in their last 13 outings. In game three of the series Thorpe’s team left 12 runners stranded, a problem that continues to haunt the Aggies.  

“It’s one of those things where we’re in the games and it’s just heartbreaking right now that we’re losing so many close games. But, we gotta find a way to claw through, and we gotta find a way to fight and be competitive and start turning some of those around and have the win come in our column. We’re working through trying to figure some things out right now, trying to see how we can flip that,” Thorpe said. 

The Aggies fell to 20-26 and 7-11 in conference play. They have six games left on the season – three games against Cal Poly on the road and three games against Hawaii at home on May 13 to 14. UC Davis will look to finish the season on a high note. 

“I think we’re all a little disappointed and heartbroken with not being able to get the wins that we wanted to get and that we feel we’re prepared to get,” Thorpe said. “It’s about time we start figuring it out and being able to put it together.”

Written by: Marlon Rolon — sports@theaggie.org

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