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Davis, California

Thursday, May 16, 2024

The UC Davis softball team loses both games at the National Invitational Softball Championship

The Aggies’ championship aspirations come to an end in the postseason after a historic season


By ELOISE ENGS — sports@theaggie.org


On May 18 and 19, UC Davis women’s softball (29-22 overall, 15-12 in conference play) made a postseason appearance in the National Invitational Softball Championship (NISC) in Fort Collins, Colorado. After a strong season, the Aggies lost to the University of Iowa, 3-6, and Tarleton State University, 4-10.

The regional and final rounds of the tournament started on May 19 and ended May 20, when the University of Iowa won the tournament. The other teams in the tournament were Tarleton (30-27, 13-11), South Dakota State (37-17, 17-0), Maryland (36-17, 11-11), CSUN (28-22, 19-8), San Jose State (26-28, 11-11) and Brigham Young University (32-16, 11-4).

This eight-team championship was the fifth edition of the NISC, which is a great opportunity for deserving teams who desire to compete in the postseason. The tournament is played on two fields in a double-elimination format throughout the first round of the Super Regionals. Once the competition gets down to four teams, the tournament proceeds in a single-elimination style bracket.

The Aggies have had an outstanding and record-breaking season this year, as they finished with a 15-12 conference record. They secured their first winning season this year since the 2020 pandemic season when it was significantly shortened.

UC Davis won their last Big West Conference series after defeating the University of Hawaii in two out of three games. They lost the first game 2-3, but in the next two games, they came back with two wins (6-1 and 5-2).

Third-year catcher and outfielder Anna Dethlefson was named the Big West Conference Player of the Year. Dethlefson was the first Aggie in program history to earn Player of the Year honors from the Big West. Throughout the season, Dethlefson tallied an impressive slugging percentage (.618), doubles (15) and stolen bases (42). She ranks second in batting average (.408), OPS (1.096), runs (46) and hits (64). Dethlefson also broke a single-season record with most stolen bases in the regular season as well.

UC Davis took on Iowa for their first series of the NISC on May 18. The game started off with third-year Kenedi Brown on the pitching mound, who kept the opposing team from scoring in the first inning. An inning later, the Hawkeyes scored three runs to end the second inning, making it 3-0. The Aggies were playing catch-up in the third inning as they punched in two runs to decrease the lead down to one. 

Both teams displayed high-level defense as they kept the offense scoreless in the fourth inning, but Iowa managed to score two runs in the fifth inning, making it 5-2. This gave the Aggies two more innings to either tie the score or possibly one-up the Hawkeyes.

The sixth inning looked promising for UC Davis when they got another run on the board, making the score 5-3, but Iowa quickly responded with a run at the bottom of the sixth inning.

UC Davis had one more opportunity to put at least three runs on the board to extend the game to extra innings. However, the Aggies were shut out and could not score another run, which ultimately ended the game. The Hawkeyes defeated the Aggies 6-3.

Third-year first baseman Sarah Starks was a standout in this game, as she broke the Division I program record for tallying two runs batted in (RBI), which ultimately moved her to 92 total RBIs in her three seasons. Another standout was Dethlefson, who went two for four in runs scored in this game.

In their next game, Brown took the mound again to start, and UC Davis was in a must-win situation in order to remain alive in the tournament. Their next competitor was Tarleton State, a school located near Fort Worth, Texas.

The game started off slow, as the first and second innings remained scoreless for both sides. The Aggies managed to put a run on the board in the third inning when Starks hit a single, giving Dethlefson the chance to cross home plate. The Texans were unable to put points on the board at this time, but they responded with a run at the bottom of the fourth inning which tied the game, 1-1. 

The fifth inning went scoreless as the pitching was outstanding from both teams, but the sixth inning is where Tarletons’ offense started to fire up;  they managed to score three runs. UC Davis failed to emulate the offensive firepower. The Aggies did manage to muster up one run to end the inning, but they trailed behind 4-2 late in the game.

With one inning left, the Aggies needed to play catch-up in the seventh inning of a possible season-ending game in Fort Worth.

Tarleton State had an amazing last inning, which made it very difficult for UC Davis; they scored six runs, making it 10-2 on the score sheet. At the bottom of the seventh inning, the Aggies had one last chance to win the game. However, it was highly unlikely that the offense could produce eight runs this late in the game. As predicted, UC Davis was not able to achieve that many runs in just one inning.

Even though they fought hard in the last inning and managed to score two more runs, the Aggies fell to the Texans. Their season ended with a final score of 10-4 in this double-elimination series.

Brown pitched six of those innings and managed to strike out nine hitters while allowing four runs on six hits.

Star player Dethlefson batted one for three in runs scored, and both fourth-year outfielder Delaney Diaz and third-year outfielder Sarah Nakahara went one for two, each getting crucial RBIs. Third-year infielder Bella Pahulu stood out when she hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning.

The Aggies’ season came to an end with a 29-22 overall record. Even though the NISC did not go as planned, they had their first winning overall record since 2020, which was outstanding considering the 2020 season was shortened due to the pandemic.

The UC Davis Aggies closed the season on a high note, finishing fourth in the Big West standings and earning a berth in the postseason. Players on the roster have tremendously grown, and the overall team chemistry was evident on the field. Standout players include Dethlefson who got the nod for Big West Player of The Year and All-Big West First Team along with Brown. Dethlefson and Brown also garnered 2023 NFCA Division I All-Region honors. Another notable player who produced on offense, Starks earned All-Big West Second Team honors. In addition, first-year utility player Gia Felice and first-year pitcher and first baseman Caroline Grimes earned All-Freshman Team honors.  

With remarkable players on the roster, UC Davis will go into an offseason with high expectations as they prepare for the 2024 season.  


Written by: Eloise Engs — sports@theaggie.org