Weather permitting, the UC Davis softball team will play its inaugural home games of the season this week.
After squaring off with former Big West Conference foe Pacific Tuesday afternoon, the Aggies will take on cross-river rival Sacramento State on Wednesday. Both games are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at LaRue Stadium.
Despite weaving through last weekend’s Sportco Kickoff Classic at UNLV with a 1-4 record, UCD showed encouraging signs against rugged competition.
On Friday, the Aggies beat Arkansas, 5-4, before falling to the host Rebels, 4-3. San Diego (5-2) and No. 16 Baylor (17-1) stopped UCD the following day before an 11-run inning did in the locals in a 16-2 loss to No. 3 Washington on Sunday.
But now it’s home, sweet home …
“We had a challenging weekend in regards to (playing) two ranked opponents and another receiving votes (Arkansas),” longtime Aggie coach Karen Yoder told The Enterprise. “We came out strong … we did some good things. It was an opportunity for some of our freshmen to make an impact — and they did so.”
Catcher Lauryn Saunders, a first-year player from Leigh High (San Jose), led an offensive charge that saw five locals hit more than .308 in the desert.
Saunders had six hits — including two home runs — while batting .429.
Sophomore Christa Castello of Carondelet (Concord) collected seven hits, among them three doubles and three RBIs, while smacking the ball at a .412 clip.
Another sophomore — St. Francis High utility whiz Kelly Zboralske — homered, drove in three and batted .400.
In addition to Saunders, those first-year contributors Yoder spoke of included pitchers Dana Cruse and Andrea Reynolds.
Reynolds won the Arkansas game in relief of 2013 ace Justine Vela. Reynolds is a 5-foot-5 fireballer from San Luis Obispo High who went 1-1 with a 7.00 earned run average in four appearances.
Cruse, hailing from Del Norte High (San Diego), also threw in four games, going 0-1 with a 2.86 ERA in 7 1/3 innings.
“We’re still trying to figure out a few things … but (they) will get ironed out,” Yoder said.
Sacramento State and Pacific had scheduled a doubleheader against each other on Saturday — but it got washed out. Neither squad has yet taken the field.
Assistant coach Lori Perez has been named interim successor to longtime Hornet mentor Kathy Strahan, who retired after 21 years.
Yoder knows Sacramento State vs. UCD — regardless of sport or record — is always entertaining:
“They have a new coaching staff … and we have great respect for their program and look forward to Sac State on Wednesday. Any home game will be a good one for fans. We have some exciting players to watch. There are so many areas of strength this year.
“By remaining healthy and continuing to be challenged like we were this weekend, I think we’re just going to be resilient and truly prepared.”
The Aggies are coming off of a 25-27 season during which they went 11-13 in Big West play. For all of 2013, the locals hit 10 HRs. They already have four in their first five outings.
Despite the homers, UCD had a tough time with the top of its lineup in Las Vegas. But Yoder says the table-setters will come around:
“When we get them going, it’s a different offensive look for sure.”
After Sac State, the Aggies play but one home game — on Feb. 18 against Stanford — until St. Mary’s visits for a March 26 twinbill.
Then, Long Beach State comes to town March 29 for a three-game series that opens Big West competition.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.