UC Davis finishes in eighth place in the Big West with a 23-29 overall record
By MARLON ROLON — firstname.lastname@example.org
Infielder Libbie McMahan did it again for the UC Davis Softball team. The sophomore hit her second career home run Friday afternoon against the Rainbow Wahine in the final series of the regular season at La Rue Field.
McMahan isn’t known for hitting the ball out of the park, but her confidence at the plate has surged as of late.
“We’ve been looking for those stinking hits all year long and then Libbie comes up with a big home run,” said UC Davis Softball Head Coach Erin Thorpe. “Libbie has not been a home run hitter so it’s awesome to get to see her [in recent games], [McMahan] got a grand slam [against UC Santa Barbara on April 30] and today’s home run was just awesome so I hope she can build off that with some confidence.”
The Aggies trailed 6-1 in the sixth-inning until a pair of hits by senior slugger Delaney Diaz, freshman outfielder Reese Mattley and McMahan’s three-run homer brought UC Davis back within two.
Despite a strong sixth inning, the Aggies fell short in a near comeback to the University of Hawai’i who sat in third place in the Big West standings.
“We were a little bit too short and we had the right people up at the right times, we just quite didn’t get it done,” Thorpe said.
Sophomore pitcher Sara Reineman got the nod to start for UC Davis, however, she only lasted two-innings on the mound before Thorpe pulled her out for freshman pitcher Mia Hildebrand.
Reineman allowed three runs along with four hits and had a rough outing against the Rainbow Wahine batters. But there is a reason why Hawai’i is a top three powerhouse in the Big West — they make most pitchers struggle.
Hildebrand did not have better luck as the right handed pitcher allowed three runs off seven hits. Although the pitching had a rough day, the experience gained against elite competition is what matters for the pitching pair.
“Hawai’i is a great team, they have a chance to be second in conference after this so we know that they’re going to come out, they’re going to swing it, they’re going to play hard,” said Thorpe during a postgame interview. “We just want to compete, we just want to come out and feel like we left it on the field.”
Following the 6-4 loss, UC Davis looked to rebound in the final two games of a long season. The Aggies best chance to win is with Kenedi Brown on the mound, who did not pitch the previous day.
Arguably the best pitcher in the Big West, Brown delivered. Brown pitched for seven innings, striking out 11 batters and allowing four runs off three hits while earning her 13th win of the season.
Likely the Aggies most reliable batter, Anna Dethlefson, sparked the offense with a single to left field in the first inning. Dethlefson tested her speed stealing second base and third base. Then McMahan continued her hot streak with a hit. The rising star Mattley was sure to make some noise on the plate until she got hit by a pitch. Finally, sophomore infielder Leah Polsen smacked a double off the wall in center field to bring Mattley and McMahan home.
McMahan wasn’t done generating hits however, as in the third-inning she hit a double to left center field and eventually scored off a fly ball putting the Aggies up 4-0.
Thorpe’s team tacked on the scoreboard in the fifth when Mattley generated an RBI bringing in junior infielder Sommer Kisling.
Thorpe had high praise for the freshmen during the postgame interview, “We knew that she [Reese Matley] had a ton of potential, when she came in she was pretty raw,” Thorpe said. “We’re just super excited about the improvements that she’s already made so we’re really excited. She’s one of those one’s that’s like ‘wow’[from] where she started to where she is now. It’s really encouraging to us and she should feel really proud of what she’s been able to do this year.”
Just when the game seemed to be over, Hawai’i clawed back in the sixth inning scoring three runs, however, that was not enough. Brown eventually put the last nail in the coffin to close the game 6-3.
In game two of the double header, UC Davis continued their dominance. Although the Aggies are out of contention for the playoffs, they had something to play for – they played for their two graduating seniors, Sierra Hillman and Claudia Kim, who played their final game of their respective careers.
“It’s tough we really want to end the year strong with our two seniors, we know we’re not fighting for anything at this point,” Thorpe said. “In our conference, we’ve been out of it for a while.”
Hawai’i opened the game in the second-inning with a score. However, the graduating senior Kim stepped up on the plate and singled to left field to bring Mattley across home plate to tie the game at one a piece.
Dethlefson followed through with a single to left center field that saw Polson score, making it 2-1. The Rainbow Wahine looked like a different team from the previous day blanking out on the scoreboard.
In the fourth-inning, McMahan continued her dominance at the plate, hitting a line drive to right field earning the RBI. At this point in the game UC Davis led 3-1.
In the fifth, Hawai’i was able to take one back on the scoreboard to be within one from tying it. That was the last time Hawai’i would score. A pair of hits from Dethlefson and Kisling got the Aggies on base, and then McMahan hit a ground ball that gave Dethlefson enough time to cross home plate for the final run of the game, 4-2. Fans at La Rue field celebrated a doubleheader sweep, a feat that hadn’t happened since April 2 when they swept CSU Bakersfield.
“We want to feel like we left in a good spot ready to come back next year and just build,” Thorpe said.
The UC Davis softball team ended the season with an overall record of 23-29, and 10-14 in conference play. However, this was the first full season after the pandemic. Thorpe was fully staffed this season with a full roster, something that wasn’t there last year.
Even though the Aggies finished below .500, there were some bright moments throughout the season. They beat top teams in the conference, such as the conference champion Cal State Fullerton and second place Long Beach State as well as beat third place Hawai’i in the season series.
Notable players who were bright spots this season – Dethlefson, Diaz, Brown, Mattley and Kisling. These players were outstanding all season long consistently producing day in and day out. The team is mostly composed of first and second year players, with a relatively young team growing pains were expected.
“You have to fight at this level, you have to be a fighter and clearly we are still learning how to fight,” Thorpe said. “It’s about the little lessons that we’re learning.”
Although the Aggies finished in eighth place, their record doesn’t indicate how hard they played this season. They were in it in every game, they battled until the end. This season was marred with learning experiences for the young players on the team, come next spring Thorpe hopes the lessons learned this season translates into a Big West conference championship.
Written by: Marlon Rolon — email@example.com