Area college notes: Competitive Big West is challenge for UC Davis baseball

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 2, 2014 - 11:32 pm

The Big West Conference schedule makers weren’t kind to UC Davis’ baseball team this season.

After winning seven of their previous nine games, the Aggies opened their 27-game conference schedule last weekend at Cal Poly, losing all three games in San Luis Obispo.

The Mustangs (24-4, 3-0) are enjoying one of their best seasons and are ranked No. 5 nationally by Baseball America.

The Aggies (13-12, 0-3) will again be on the road this weekend for a three-game series at Cal State Fullerton, the Big West’s four-time defending champion. The Titans (14-10, 0-0) are having an off-year by its standards but are still ranked No. 18 by Baseball America.

Next Tuesday, the Aggies will play at Stanford, a 16-time College World Series participant.

Still, with a team heavy with upper classmen, the Aggies aren’t ready to concede anything, even in a college baseball conference that is considered among the nation’s five best.

UC Davis, which finished in last place a year ago with a 5-22 conference record and was picked by Big West coaches to finish ninth among 10 teams this year, is trying to channel the 2008 Aggies. That team posted UC Davis’ only Big West winning record (13-11) and overall winning record (35-24) in the school’s maiden season at the Division I level.

Among the bright spots this season for UC Davis coach Matt Vaughn have been senior third baseman Adam Young (.420), junior center fielder Kevin Barker (.366), senior second baseman Steven Patterson (.323, 17 RBIs), junior first baseman Nick Lynch (.306, four home runs, 14 RBIs) and senior right fielder Seth Batty (.301), along with the pitching of junior starter Spencer Koopmans (3-0, 2.90 ERA), relievers Zach Stone (2-1, five saves, 1.08 ERA) and Orlando Razo (1-2, 2.00 ERA), both freshmen, and junior reliver Raul Jacobson (2-0, 2.65 ERA).

The overall pitching staff, however, ranked last in the Big West in ERA (4.43) before Wednesday’s 4-1 nonconference win over St. Mary’s.

Sac State coach nominated – Sacramento State women’s basketball coach Bunky Harkleroad is one of five finalists for the 2014 Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year award.

Harkleroad, a late hire with a unique up-tempo strategy, helped the Hornets to a school record 11-1 start, a Big Sky Conference tournament berth and an 18-12 overall record in his first season. The Hornets established NCAA D-I records for most three-point shots attempted and made in a season and led the nation in steals.

Other nominees are Duquesne’s Dan Burt, Iona’s Billi Godsey, Washington’s Mike Neighbors and American’s Megan Gebbia. The winner will be honored Monday during the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Awards Show held in conjunction with the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Nashville.

The award is named in honor of former Army coach Maggie Dixon, who died in 2006 at age 28 from complications of an enlarged heart shortly after leading the Black Knights to their first NCAA D-I tournament appearance.

Honor for Hoskins – Sac State junior first baseman Rhys Hoskins was named the Western Athletic Conference Hitter of the Week after batting .563 with three home runs and 12 RBIs to help the Hornets to a 7-1 win over Air Force on March 25 and a three-game sweep of New Mexico State last weekend in Las Cruces. Those wins extended the Hornets’ winning streak to eight games entering the week.

Senior outfielder David Del Grande earned the same award the previous week.

Et cetera – Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champion Sac State is sending seven gymnasts – all-arounders Kalliah McCartney and Jesse Williams and event specialists Kailey Hansen, Dallas Smith, Julia Konner, Kaila Kilwein and Kayla Wonderly – to the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Regional Championships on Saturday at the University of Washington.

UC Davis, led by three-time NCAA postseason participant Anna Shumaker, will compete in Saturday’s regional gymnastics championships at the University of Arkansas. It was the first time UC Davis qualified for the postseason as a team since 1998 and the No. 34 Aggies’ first top-36 finish in school history. The Aggies set a school-record team score of 196.425 during a meet against Seattle Pacific on Feb. 28.

• The Sacramento State women’s sand volleyball team will host a three-day, dual-meet tournament Friday through Sunday at the Sacramento Softball Complex. The Sacramento State Invitational will feature Boise State, Cal Poly, Cal, Pacific, 10th-ranked Saint Mary’s, San Francisco, Santa Clara and the Hornets. A total of 13 matches – five involving the Hornets – will played over the three days.

• UC Davis will open four Saturday spring football practices to the public. This Saturday’s practice will begin at noon. The April 12, 19 and 26 practices will start at 10 a.m. April 26 is the Aggies’ annual spring scrimmage. Practices during the week are closed to the public.

Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

Read more articles by Bill Paterson

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