UC Davis baseball drops two of three games in Hawai’i

Offense struggled to get runners home as Aggies lose home streak

By GABRIEL CARABALLO — [email protected]

The UC Davis baseball team took on Hawai’i in a three-game series over the weekend. It’s been a tough season for the Aggies baseball team, but there have been some positives. After beating University of the Pacific in early April with an epic 14-11 win, the Aggies are now on a four-game losing streak.

The Aggies took on the Rainbow Warriors in a close game on Friday afternoon; however, the start could not have been worse for the team. Starting pitcher Nathan Peng started the first inning by hitting two of Hawaii’s batters, eventually leading to a 1-0 lead for Hawai’i on zero hits. Peng went just two innings, had one strikeout before the bullpen was called, and pitcher Nate Freeman took the mound for the rest of the game.

“Freeman came in for the third inning; that was the plan,” head coach Tommy Nicholson said in the postgame interview. “We were hoping to get through those first two sets with minimal damage against us. Nathan struggled with the first two batters, but minimized that inning by giving up only one.

Coach Nicholson made the move, ensuring Freeman is able to “pitch in the eighth and ninth innings of the game.” He said Freeman could have thrown “two to three more innings” considering how good he looked.

Freeman and the fielding held Hawai’i for the third inning, but allowed a run late in the top of the fourth inning before shutting out Hawai’i for the inning. With the score now 2-0 in favor of Hawai’i, the Aggies managed to smash two base hits during the end of the fourth inning, but couldn’t get runs or bring them back.

During the fifth, the Aggies defense held Hawai’i to zero runs and hits. On offense, the Aggies only managed one hit for the inning. To start the sixth, Freeman hit the first batter, and after a few hits from the next batters, Hawai’i scored again. Now taking a 3-0 lead over the Aggies, it would be the last time Hawai’i would score in the game.

The rest of the game would play out the same way. The Aggies got hits, but couldn’t capitalize on runners in scoring position to close the score.

“We’ve been hitting a lot lately and I was confident we were going to do it,” Nicholson said. “We just couldn’t break through and chip one here or there.”

The Aggies managed to beat Hawai’i 8-5 – three hits thanks to left fielder Nick Iverson who went 3 for 3 on the plate. However, the team failed to strike at the most important moment, which was a key detail of the game.

When asked how he wanted to improve, Nicholson said: “We’re going to keep practicing hitting the nets, but I think we need to do a better job of getting the ball in play with two strikes. “

Spending time in the batting cages will help capitalize on runners in scoring position and diminish what Coach Nicholson considers their “Achilles heel” for putting the ball in play during clutch scenarios. Hitting is one of the strengths of the Aggies; they just couldn’t get home this time.

Sticking aside, one of the team’s strengths was their alignment. Time and time again, infielders and outfielders have made play after play to keep the Aggies in the game. Either shoving ground balls to get the batter out, or one of their rare spectacular double plays. The defense held on as long as they could.

“We played good defense, and even though we didn’t score, we were still in this game until the end,” Nicholson said, noting the importance of their defense. “It was nice to see that the pitcher and the defense kept us in the game.”

Coach Nicholson was right on defense. Even though their launch was solid, some wonder if it’s not for the three launch steps, maybe the narrative around this game is changing. Another key detail in how this game played out.

The team looked to work on their Achilles heel, keep defense high and minimize errors for the remainder of the series and season.

On Saturday, the Aggies were able to bounce back and clinch their fourth win of the season. It was a narrow win over the Rainbow Warriors in a stunning 3-2 win, as the Aggies were able to come back to score two runs in the eighth inning and the winning run in the ninth on a scoreless single from the freshman infielder. Nick. Leehey. However, Sunday produced a crushing loss for the Aggies in a 1-17 loss to the Rainbow Warriors to end the weekend and the streak –

a game that saw Hawai’i score nine runs in the ninth inning.

UC Davis goes 4-22 this season and will have two non-conference games — including one against Stanford — before resuming Big West play May 6-8 in Northridge against Cal State Northridge.

Written by: Gabriel Caraballo — [email protected]

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