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Davis, California

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Aggies beat Cal Poly Mustangs in series for the first time since 2015

UC Davis baseball’s pitching shuts down Mustangs for the second time in the series to secure the victory


By PATRICK FIGUEROA — sports@theaggie.org


Entering Sunday, May 7’s matchup, the UC Davis Aggies had an opportunity to do something they had not done in eight years: defeat the Cal Poly Mustangs in their annual season series. The Aggies won the first game of the series 1-0 but lost the second game 8-1. With a make-or-break opportunity, the Aggies prevailed with an 8-0 win.

The Aggies’ Two-way right-handed redshirt third-year Kaden Hogan made his collegiate starting pitcher debut in the game.

“I just prepared like every other day,” Hogan said. “I’m a two-way player, so I hit in the cages. I did everything on the other side of the ball that I could do so that I could have a clear head [for] when I come in and throw.” 

On the other side, left-handed redshirt first-year Jakob Wright started for the Mustangs. Wright had a 3.86 earned run average (ERA) entering this game but had only pitched in seven innings since returning from Tommy John surgery

Hogan quickly worked through the top of the first inning, getting three outs with six pitches. Wright did not have the same success in the bottom of the first inning, immediately loading the bases after Wright hit third-year outfielder Damian Stone with a pitch and walked the following two batters, infielders Alex Gouveia and Nick Leehey. Then, with just one out, third-year catcher Jack Gallagher swung at the first pitch and got it past the shortstop for a 2-runs batted-in (RBI) single. 

The Aggies’ offense continued to rally that inning. After going down in the count with zero balls and two strikes, second-year outfielder Mark Wolbert took three balls to get a full count. He promptly hit a single past the second baseman to load the bases. After another out, first-year outfielder Leighton Helfrick came up to the plate. Helfrick ripped a base-clearing double down the left-field line, giving the Aggies a 5-0 lead. Wright’s day on the mound was done as Mustangs’ redshirt third-year, right-handed pitcher Ryan Baum came out of the bullpen to replace him. 

The Aggies tacked on another run, and the inning ended with the Aggies up 6-0. From here, a pitching duel ensued, as Hogan and Baum shut down the opposing offenses for the majority of the game. 

The Mustangs had an opportunity to score in the top of the third inning when they had runners on second and third bases with two outs and second-year catcher Ryan Stafford at the plate. Stafford is the Mustangs’ best hitter with a 0.308 batting average, 31 RBI and five home runs this season. He hit a hard ground ball that looked like it would sneak through the infield, but Gouveia made a diving snag and threw the ball to first base for an out, allowing the Aggies to escape the inning unscathed. 

The Mustangs had another opportunity in the top of the fifth inning. With runners on first and third bases and two outs, Stafford was once again in the batter’s box. He hit a hard fly ball toward center field, but Wolbert tracked down the ball to get the final out of the inning. Despite having three errors on the day, the Aggies’ defense came through in big moments to maintain their lead. Hogan expressed his confidence in his teammates to have his back even after an error. 

“I’ve been a shortstop my entire life growing up and through college, so I don’t mind at all if they make errors because no one ever tries to,” Hogan said. “I just know I’m going to be back in the zone and give them another ball to field again.”

Hogan’s day was done after five innings, during which he struck out five batters and allowed just two hits and no runs. He was awarded with the win, improving his season record to 2-1.

“I’m feeling good. It’s a great team win,” Hogan said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever beat them in a series, so [it’s] awesome to be a part of it. I’m so excited to be a part of it, and I just want to keep playing better.”

“[Hogan] did a great job pounding the zone,” UC Davis Head Coach Tommy Nicholson said. “He really did a good job picking up his teammates. There were a couple of mistakes behind him, and he picked them up by getting that extra out.” 

First-year right-handed pitcher Alejandro Huezo continued to build on Hogan’s success as he shut down the Mustangs in the sixth and seventh innings. The final out in the seventh came from Gallagher as he threw out a Mustangs’ runner trying to steal second. That was the 11th runner that Gallagher had caught stealing this season.

The Aggies’ offense struggled against Baum, who held the Aggies scoreless for six innings. However, in the bottom of the eighth, third-year right-handed pitcher Kyle Scott relieved Baum. The Aggies immediately capitalized on the pitching change, and with a runner on first base, Gallagher hit a two-run home run to extend the lead to 8-0. That was Gallagher’s 11th home run of the season, which is a new school record.

“He’s swinging a hot bat right now, catching really well and throwing really well,” Nicholson said. “That’s a recipe for success when you have a guy like that who’s in the middle of the lineup. Yeah, he’s doing a great job.” 

Third-year right-handed pitcher Danny Carrion finished the game with a scoreless ninth inning. The Aggies’ win improved their record to 17-26, while the Mustangs fell to 15-30. 

The Aggies’ season is winding down with 10 games remaining. After a close 7-5 loss to Sacramento State, they will travel to Hawaii for a three-game series against the Rainbow Warriors. After that and a short trip to take on the University of San Francisco Dons, they will have their final home series against the UC Irvine Anteaters from May 19 through May 21. 


Written by: Patrick Figueroa — sports@theaggie.org