For the second straight day, UC Davis got outstanding pitching from a freshman — and this time the effort was good enough for a 1-0 Aggie softball win over visiting Sacramento State at LaRue Field on Wednesday.
Emerging freshman Dana Cruse threw five, two-hit shutout innings before Leah Munden came on to close out the Hornets.
Over the last 12 innings, UCD hurlers have allowed only six hits and just one run.
For Cruse, it was her fifth appearance and second start of 2014. The win — her first as a collegiate — evened her record at 1-1 while lowering her earned run average to 2.19.
“Without our defense we wouldn’t have done as well,” the right-handed San Diego native told The Enterprise.
Reluctant to take credit for her breakthrough performance, Cruse added: “So (the defense) did the great job (Wednesday).”
True. Cruse, Amy Nunez and Christa Castello each nailed lead runners in the second, fifth and seventh innings to keep Sacramento State (0-1) off the board, but it was the one-two punch of Cruse and Munden that made up for relatively silent Aggie bats.
Cruse, who walked three and fanned one, gave way to Munden after the Hornets got a runner on with no outs in the sixth.
UCD coach Karen Yoder said she knew that two of the next three Hornet batters had gone 0-for-6 against Munden last season. The move paid off as the lefty from Bakersfield retired the next trio, 1-2-3.
Meanwhile, Sac State hurler Caitlin Brooks was an unlucky loser.
Pitching a three-hitter, Brooks was tapped for the game’s only run when Castello’s one-out, bases-loaded grounder plated pinch runner Christina Guidry in the fourth.
Castello went 2-for-3 and leads the Aggies with a .417 average. She has three doubles and a club-high five RBIs.
In the bottom of the sixth, UCD (2-5) almost got an insurance run, but the locals couldn’t capitalize on a two-out double by second baseman Chandler Wagner: almost, but no …
After Wagner’s rip to left, Castello followed with a line single, also to left. Wagner was sent home, but outfielder Alexa Chattleton’s accurate throw got her at the plate.
And there was one last bit of drama in the Hornet half of the seventh inning.
Kayla Papez opened with a single that nestled just inside the foul line in left.
But when Yesenia Alcala tried to sacrifice Papez to second, UCD first baseman Nunez’s throw went to shortstop Castello — nailing a lead runner for the third time in the game.
A foul-out to Lee in right and a line-out to Kelly Zboralske at third drew the curtain on the 1-0 victory.
“Proud,” said Yoder when asked how she felt after the game. “Dana, as a freshman, having a strong outing … She threw some great innings this past weekend and threw some good innings (Wednesday). I thought she battled down and did a good job (Wednesday).
“When she lost focus … she came back strong, put it over the plate and let our defense do their job.
“I’m pleasantly surprised with our pitchers.”
Yoder no doubt hopes the play of Reynolds, Cruse and Munden is a harbinger of things to come.
After getting cuffed around by No. 14 Baylor and No. 3 Washington at last weekend’s UNLV tournament — then allowing a seven-run second inning in Tuesday’s 8-5 loss to Pacific — UCD needed some sanity on the mound, especially with what lies ahead.
The Aggies are off to UCLA for a five-game tournament beginning Friday. On the agenda will be the No. 13 Bruins (Friday and Sunday). Then, UCD returns home for No. 14 Stanford on Feb. 18.
“Look at any of my schedules in the last 10 years,” Yoder said. “I’ve never shied away from the best in the country. Never. You can’t be the best without playing the best.”
Notes: Cruse hails from Del Norte High (San Diego) where she was named her prep league’s pitcher of the year after going 10-7. Parents Karen Clapp and Kyle Cruse were law students at UC Davis in the early 1990s. Dana’s sister Haley hit .444 as a freshman at DNHS. … The Causeway Challenge Cup standings were further tilted in the Aggies’ favor (2.50 points went to UCD with the win). UCD now leads Sacramento State 41.25-23.75. These same two teams meet again in Sacramento on March 4 (1:30 p.m.). … The Aggies have stolen nine bases in 10 attempts. Jasmine Lee is 4-for-4 and Castello is perfect in three tries. … After a weekend doubleheader was rained out with Pacific, Wednesday’s game was the Hornets’ season opener. Sac State is 13-12 in openers since going to Division I in 1990. … The all-time series between the rival schools stands at 61-35, advantage Hornets. … Munden went one inning, allowing six earned runs, as the starter against Pacific on Tuesday.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-320-4456.