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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Aggies’ baseball comes out on top against UC Riverside

After a tough battle, the Aggies beat UC Riverside in first matchup of the series

 

By CAROLYN (CARI) FENN — sports@theaggie.org

 

After a tough 14-2 loss to Saint Mary’s on the Phil Swimley Field at Dobbins Stadium in Davis on April 18, UC Davis Head Coach Tommy Nicholson used the few days leading up to Friday’s matchup against UC Riverside to refresh the team after a long stretch of away games.

“We’ve been on the road for the past three weeks so we needed to regroup a little bit,” Nicholson said. “We had a couple of good days of practice and wanted to come out today with a lot of energy and just play hard.”

From the start of the game, it was clear that the Aggies weren’t going to let Tuesday’s result stunt their performance. After a home run by third-year infielder Alex Gouveia in the first inning, the Aggies came out swinging in the second inning, increasing their 1-point lead to 5.

Second-year infielder Nick Leehey started the Aggies’ impressive second-inning performance with a single down left center field. Directly following, first-year infielder Ryan Lee hit a double down left-center field, which allowed Leehey to reach home plate and score the Aggies’ first of four runs of the inning. Then, to top off these back-to-back hits, third-year infielder Jack Gallagher hit a homerun straight into left field, scoring two more runs for the Aggies. 

One more run came later in the inning when the bases were loaded. First-year outfielder Leighton Helfrick was able to score from Gouveia on a fielder’s choice. This resulted in second-year outfielder Mark Wolbert getting out at second base, but not before the Aggies obtained their fourth run. Due to the Aggies’ impressive performance on the plate during the second inning, they were able to fully cycle through their lineup, with Leehey both starting and ending the inning at bat. 

Despite a strong start to the game, the Aggies began to struggle in the fourth and fifth innings, allowing UC Riverside to take over the lead, 6-5.

Despite strong pitching in the first three innings, UC Davis’s second-year pitcher Bryan Green found himself in a bit of trouble in the fourth inning, walking three batters. With the bases loaded and two outs, UC Riverside’s second-year outfielder Jacob Badawi hit a single down the left-center field, resulting in two runs for UC Riverside.

Nicholson called Green’s performance on the mound “uncharacteristic. Bryan Green walked four guys and he typically is pounding the zone. That’s not like him.”

After this, Green was replaced by third-year pitcher Nate Freeman, who finished off the inning, striking out UC Riverside’s third-year utility player Tyler Weaver.

Despite Freeman’s strong start at the end of the fourth inning, he was not able to keep it going into the fifth. After allowing a single and two walks, Freeman let Riverside load the bases again after walking third-year infielder Mason Grace. UC Riverside’s first-year infielder Alfredo Capacete singled to the left side, allowing third-year infielder Anthony Mata to score and keep the bases loaded. 

Freeman was substituted for third-year pitcher Danny Carrion, but Riverside was not stoppable. They scored two more runs, once again off a walk due to the bases being loaded and a single down the left side. After the multiple walks and singles that had occurred in the fifth inning alone, the Highlanders were able to secure a 6-5 lead against the Aggies. However, the Aggies didn’t let them stay comfortable with their lead for long. 

While the Aggies did come back and tie the game against Riverside in the bottom of the fifth inning, they really came back to life in the sixth. After three back-to-back walks by UC Riverside’s second-year pitcher Corbin Barker, Gouveia singled up the middle, allowing both third-year outfielder Damian Stone and first-year infielder Joey Wright to score. Then, after Barker was replaced with first-year pitcher David O’Neill, UC Davis’s third-year infielder James Williams III singled to left field, allowing Wolbert to score. 

The Aggies weren’t slowing down after these three runs. With the bases loaded, Gallagher once again sent the ball flying into left field for another home run, gaining the Aggies another four runs for a total of seven in the sixth inning. 

“Setting up that inning, when Jack hit the home run, Leehey had called a timeout, and we put on a bunt sign with him, and it might’ve been one of the first times he ever got that bunt sign and he did a great job,” Nicholson said. “He got the bunt down and set it up where they had to play the infield in and Ryan Lee took his walk and got it to Jack and he was able to hit a home run down the left field line and open up the game a little bit.”

At the top of the seventh, the score was 13-6 for the Aggies. Despite the Highlanders’ attempt to come back in the last three innings, scoring two runs in both the seventh and eighth innings and one in the ninth, the Aggies had established too great of a lead. The combination of their impressive offensive performance and a couple of strong defensive plays, including a diving catch by Gouveia in the ninth inning, the Aggies were able to maintain the lead and beat the Highlanders, 13-11

“[We] came out like it was going to be an easy game, and you know, winning is never easy, but they did a really good job of hanging with it, getting some runs and nailing [it] down at the end when they didn’t have their best stuff and their best game,” Nicholson said when discussing the opposing team’s performance. “They kept the fight and they really willed it. Sometimes you just have to do it when you don’t have your best stuff.”

With two more games against the Highlanders, Nicholson says that he wants the team to “keep the fight [and] keep our mindset going.”

“We have a lot of young guys that haven’t been through a long season like this, it’s a longer season than they have played before,” Nicholson said. “We’ve played a lot more road games, so we have some guys that are tired and we just have to stay with it and keep our minds into it, so we don’t let ourselves go through the motions. We just [have to] stay sharp.”

 

Written by: Carolyn (Cari) Fenn — sports@theaggie.org