The UC Davis baseball team started its season off against the Portland Pilots at Dobbins Stadium on Feb. 19. Day one of the season saw the Ags lose 12-0 with Portland’s Wilcox picking up the win and junior pitcher Zach Stone taking the loss.
Unfortunately, the game took a turn for the worse for the Aggies in the second inning.
Stone took the mound for the first start of the season and, after getting out of a tough first inning, Stone allowed seven runs on five hits in the second.
The second started with a leadoff walk and the Pilots rallied with one out. All of Portland’s hits were singles but came with runners in scoring position. After two innings, the Aggies were down 7-0.
Stone was replaced by freshman pitcher Blake Hannah in the top of the third. Hannah gave up four runs on three hits in the top of the fourth, but coach Matt Vaughn was impressed with the freshman’s ability to throw strikes.
“I liked Blake Hannah’s outing on Friday,” Vaughn said. “Even though he gave up some runs, he threw strikes [and] he didn’t walk anybody.”
The Aggies were set down quickly in the first three innings and did not pick up their first hit until the bottom of the fourth with a bunt single by junior transfer shortstop Jacob Thomas.
Through four innings, the Aggies faced a 10-run deficit.
The sixth inning showed flashes of offense from both teams. Unluckily for the Aggies, Portland was able to bring across two more runs as they started the inning off with a triple.
The Aggies had runners on second and third with one out in the bottom half of the sixth. Thomas singled down to left field line and advanced to second on the throw, which got sophomore left fielder Alex Aguiar to third who reached base on an error. The team looked to capitalize, but a flyout and strikeout ended the inning.
Portland’s senior pitcher Jordan Wilcox would finish his day in the sixth after allowing three hits, no runs and striking out six Aggies.
After six innings, the Aggies were down 12-0, and the neither team managed to put more runs across the plate after. Both teams went down quietly through the seventh and eighth innings.
Hannah’s outing ended after the eighth inning as the freshman threw six innings, giving up five runs on seven hits while striking out six.
The bottom of the ninth saw the Aggies with runners on second and third once again but this time with no outs. Junior right fielder Ryan Hooper got walked and junior outfield Mark Cardinalli doubled as a pinch hitter. Once again, the Aggies failed to execute and were shut out by the Pilots with only four hits in the game.
The second day of the season started at 11 a.m. on Saturday with a double header against the Pilots and Aggies.
Sophomore pitcher Matt Blais got the start in place of senior pitcher Spencer Henderson, who was sidelined with an injury.
Blais gave up a run in the first inning to give the Pilots an early 1-0 lead. Portland’s Hummel picked up another RBI with his double.
The Aggies made quick work of the Pilots in the top of the third and found their offense rolling once again. The team added four runs on four hits and one error for a 6-0 lead through three innings. Redshirt junior Mason Novak, Pluschkell, and Aguiar picked up RBIs off base hits. Freshman center fielder Garrett Kelly knocked his first RBI of his collegiate career on a fielder’s choice.The Aggies made some noise in the first inning but left three runners on base, and the team followed up a good start with an even better second inning. The Aggies picked up two runs off a double by Thomas who scored Aguiar and sophomore middle infielder Brad Pluschkell.
After a three solid innings by Blais, the Pilots finally got to him but the Aggies’ defense let him down as well. In the top of the fourth, as the Pilots’ lead off hitter got on an error by Thomas. Then, the Pilots hitters found a way to knock in runners in scoring position. The Pilots finished the inning with four runs on threes hits and one error, but wouldn’t stop their scoring there.
The Aggies went down quietly in their half of the fourth inning after Portland’s starter, sophomore pitcher Kevin Baker, was replaced by junior pitcher Davis Tominaga. In the fifth, Portland knocked Blais out of the game with runners on first and second. Blais went four and one third innings, giving up six runs but only four of those were earned, on seven hits.
Redshirt freshman pitcher Robert Garcia replaced Blais and walked his first hitter to load the bases. The Pilots scored their lone run off a balk by Garcia who struck out a batter and got a ground out to end the inning. In the bottom half, the Aggies could not find any offense, and, through five innings, the scored was tied at six.
In the top of the sixth, the Aggies allowed two of the three runs to score off of throwing errors. The defense hurt the Aggies and the Pilots managed to add their third run off a base hit to take the lead 9-6.
Once the lead was in Portland’s favor, the Aggies offense continued downward. The bottom of the sixth showed some hope but the team failed to score, and through innings seven, eight and nine, the team only got two hits.
The Aggies would lose game one of the double header, 9-6, after an early 6-0 lead. Garcia took the loss after pitching four and two thirds innings, giving up three runs on two hits and striking out five. Garcia took a tough loss as he gave up no earned runs. The team looked to pick their offense back up in the second half of the day.
Junior pitcher Justin Mullins got the second start of the day. Mullins struck out two in his first inning but had one blemish in giving up a solo big fly to right field to senior designated hitter Grant Taylor. But the Aggies answered back with a three spot of their own.
Aguiar led off the inning with a double and Thomas followed it up with a single. Senior right fielder Tanner Bily got the team’s first RBI of the young season on a fielder’s choice to short. Bily stole second after he got on to put himself in scoring position.
Redshirt freshman third baseman Ryan Anderson doubled down the left field line to score Bily for the Aggies’ second run of the inning. Anderson would get to third base on a wild pitch and score the third run of the inning after the catcher made a throwing error trying to throw him out at third.
The Pilots added a run off two early errors in the top of the second. The Aggies were retired in the bottom of the second.
Both teams were set down one, two, three in the third inning and the Ags led 3-2. The Pilots were able to tie the game up with a leadoff triple and a single to follow it up in the top of the fourth. But UC Davis answered right back as Novak doubled to put himself and Cardinalli in scoring position. Pluschkell grounded out the the third baseman to score Cardinalli and retake the lead, 4-3.
In Portland’s half of the sixth inning, Mullins was still pitching in the game. But the sophomore gave up a leadoff single and two consecutive doubles to allow Hummel to knock two RBIs. Mullins would give up a single to Wade, which scored Hummel and ended Mullins’ day.
Freshman pitcher Chris Brown replaced Mullins and was able to get a double play to get the Aggies out of the inning.
The bottom of the seventh saw the Aggies get a double from Pluschkell to start the inning, but the sophomore was picked off at second base. Aguiar singled and got to second base on a balk, while Thomas advanced him to third from an error by the Pilots. The Aggies could not score Aguiar from third and left two runners on base.
In the top of the ninth, freshman Joey Chapman replaced Brown who got one out in the inning. Chapman walked two batters, one of which allowed a runner to cross the plate. The Aggies made no noise in the bottom of the ninth and lost the second game of the day 7-4.
Mullins went five and one third innings, allowing six runs and five earned runs on eight hit while tallying eight strikeouts in his loss. Brown threw three innings and allowed one run which was unearned on no hits and a walk. Brown struck out four.
“Chris Brown [on Saturday], he came in for three innings and did a really good job,” Vaughn said. “[He] kept the game close so that we could hopefully get back in it, which we didn’t.”
After having the early lead in boths games and out hitting the Pilots, the Aggies took two tough losses, in part to seven errors in both games combined, in part to some early season jitters.
“We were tight; we didn’t play the game the right way,” Vaughn said.
The team looked for some redemption on Sunday with senior pitcher Nat Hamby taking the mound.
Hamby’s first three innings were solid as he gave up just one hit through three innings, while the Aggies put two on the board in the bottom of the first inning.
Aguiar was hit by a pitch to lead off the game and then came around to score off a sacrifice fly to center by Anderson. Cardinalli picked up an RBI off a single to score Bily, who stole second base. The Aggies led 2-0 through the first three innings.
Hamby’s fourth inning was a little rocky. He gave up a double to Portland to start the inning and the next batter switched places with a double of his own to knock in the Pilots’ first run. A single and a throwing error allowed Portland to pick up two more runs and take a 3-2 lead.
“Innings like that, it’s easy to break down, but one thing you’ve got to make sure is you [have] to get to the next pitch,” Hamby said.
Hamby came back strong in the fifth inning, not letting the earlier inning affect him.
“That’s when those long innings roll over into other long innings,” Hamby said. “If you shut it down and make sure that guy on second and third doesn’t score, that next inning it slows their momentum down again.”
The Aggies tied the game up in the bottom of the fifth, 3-3, with a groundout from Pluschkell who scored freshman center fielder Alex Roeser
Hamby continued to pitch strong for the Ags in the top of the sixth but was replaced after walking a batter. Hamby left runners on first and third with two outs for sophomore Blake Peters, who got a ground out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Aggies played some small ball by adding a run with a sacrifice bunt by freshman catcher Logan Delholm. Delholm scored Anderson, who reached on an error and was advanced to third off a single by Novak.
The Aggies took the lead, 4-3, heading into the top of the seventh.
Peters retired the side in the top of the seventh and looked really strong. He gave up a leadoff walk in the top of the eighth but got the next batter to ground out into a double play. Peters allowed a hit, but the next batter flew out to get the Aggies into the bottom of the eighth.
“I’m not happy about the leadoff walk in the eighth,” Vaughn said. “But he’s got a great sinking fastball and he gets a lot of ground balls.”
Peters came into the top of ninth still ready to go and help the team pick up their first victory.
“Same old [thing],” Peters said. “Another inning, another batter, another pitch. Just continue to let my defense work, just keep working with the catcher and keep trusting what the coach calls.”
Peters did just that as he was able to get three outs and send the Pilots home with a loss, while giving the Aggies their first win on the season.
“We’re a young team so it feels good to get the first one under our belt,” Peters said. “[We have to] keep going from here, hopefully to build on [the win].”
Not only is it the Aggies first win on the season, but Vaughn picked up his 100th career win as head coach of the UC Davis men’s baseball team.
“Fifth year, that’s no big deal,” Vaughn said. “It’s just our first win of the season, that’s the big deal.”
Written by Michael Martinez – firstname.lastname@example.org