If the UC Davis softball team continues to get better at the same rate that it has gotten faster this spring, there’s going to be no slowing them down once Big West competition gets under way.
Already, the Aggies have already surpassed most competitors in speed — posting 31 steals in 34 attempts in 2013. The local women have used that quickness to earn a 9-11 standing after a series of 20 tough nonconference games.
UCD head coach Karen Yoder said the squad’s newest additions have made an immediate impact. Their speed, she said, has been an essential solution on offense after the Aggies lost their top four batters to graduation after last season.
“It’s not just one or two athletes — there’s many who have brought a quicker step, per se,” she added. “They’ve increased our threat on the bases. And I think that has put us into situations where we’re creating pressure on defenses.
“We may not have power numbers at this point in the season, but when you put the speed on — and turn a single into a double — we’re able to score more runs. We’re already scoring more than we did at this point last year, which I attribute to our speed.”
The newly found pace is perhaps best exemplified by freshman Christina Guidry, who has stolen seven bases thus far this season. Her twin sister Cat Guidry also has shown base-running talent in key situations.
The combined agility of these two is bolstered by the efforts of senior Megan Guzman, who entered 2013 ranked third in program history with 38 steals. She needs only 12 more to set the Aggie career record.
In the circle, Leah Munden is another freshman who has already shined and has great potential, according to Yoder.
The UCD pitching and defense has been strong as nearly half of the local losses have been by just one run.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Aggies’ 8-0 loss to Stanford on Feb. 17, one of the few times this year — along with a 7-0 loss to Cal on Feb. 13 — where UCD’s speed was unable to produce runs. The Aggies would have gotten a rematch with the Cardinal on Wednesday but weather forced the game’s cancellation.
Even in losing, Yoder remains confident in the ability of her squad — one on which freshmen and sophomores outnumber veterans — to bounce back with even more force:
“The 20 games thus far have given us an incredible amount of opportunities for our underclassmen to grow. I’m extremely optimistic of how we’re going to take that into the competition this weekend.”
Next up for the locals is this weekend’s Diamond Devil Invitational in Arizona, where nationally competitive teams such as host Arizona State, ranked third in the nation, await.
“We’re not intimidated by anyone,” Yoder said. “They put their pants, cleats and shirts on the same way they do. We want to challenge ourselves against the best in the country so that one day we’re in that position.”
The Aggies have just two more nonconference matchups following the three-day tournament — against CSU Bakersfield and Oregon State — before opening Big West play March 29 at Hawaii.
— Reach Brett Johnson at email@example.com or 530-747-8052.