For a while, it was a good softball game.
Sure, No. 13 Stanford (12-0) flexed its muscles briefly with a three-run third inning — but if UC Davis had capitalized with the bases loaded and one out in its half of the frame, things might have been different.
As it was, the Aggies got their lone run in that pivotal third, then coughed up a seven-spot two frames later in losing 10-1 in a deficit-rule-shortened five innings on Tuesday at La Rue Field.
“It’s disappointing. I thought there were two solid innings, but our game is (usually) seven innings long,” UCD head coach Karen Yoder said afterward. “We’re not finishing games and I know for some of the freshmen it’s inexperience, it’s nerves.”
Freshman Dana Cruse — who to this point of the Aggies’ 4-9 start has been the local ace — got her sixth start of 2014.
After battling out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first, Cruse waltzed through an easy second inning before meeting an early end in the third.
Stanford center fielder Cassandra Roulund chased Cruse (2-3) with a no-out, three-run double before Andrea Reynolds (another UCD freshman pitcher) came on to restore order.
In the bottom of the inning, Aggie Christina Castello led off by getting plunked with a Madi Schreyer fastball. With one out, Amy Nunez doubled home Castello. Kelly Zboralske also got smacked with a Schreyer pitch before Lauryn Saunders reached on a fielder’s choice.
But that was that for UCD.
Kimberly Pena’s comebacker to Schreyer forced Nunez at the plate and Krista Bava fanned to end the threat.
Stanford’s Hanna Winter and Leah White opened the fourth inning with singles, but Reynolds was up to the challenge and retired the next three hitters.
Then the roof fell in …
Two walks, three Aggie errors and two-run singles from both Winter and Roulund fueled the Cardinal seven-run uprising.
Sophomore Marissa Chapa was asked to relieve Reynolds with one out in the decisive fifth. She was the victim of two Aggie errors and allowed three unearned runs.
“We’re asking them to play bigger roles than anticipated due to some injuries and shuffling of positions,” Yoder said, especially focusing on her youthful pitchers.
Junior Justine Vela — 15-10 a year ago — has thus far been lost to the Aggies. She faced just one batter before suffering a knee injury in the season opener against Arkansas in the Las Vegas tournament.
Yoder says an update on the Bakersfield native’s condition is “in limbo … we’re all waiting to hear.”
So what did Yoder tell her troops after the loss?
“Just really try to ask them to rise to the occasion of being challenged,” the 10-year UCD skipper told The Enterprise. “We have a competitive schedule. Keep working hard and remain positive and just realize we have to do a better job.”
There was a positive, according to Yoder:
“I thought Amy Nunez had a great day — beating out a single and having a nice double, RBI. I think that’s tremendous. It just takes more than one hitter in the lineup. Generally you need at least six or seven (to come through).”
Those Aggies will have to come though on the road as the locals don’t return home until March 26 for a nonleague doubleheader with St. Mary’s.
In the interim, UCD next plays in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic (Cathedral City). Friday games are against Syracuse (10 a.m.) and No. 24 Notre Dame (noon); UNLV (10 a.m.) is the lone Saturday game; and on Sunday the Aggies get Long Island-Brooklyn (9 a.m.) and No. 8 Oregon (11:30 p.m.).
Notes: Nunez’s two hits raised her batting average to .323. Castello still leads the Aggies, hitting at a .372 clip. … Its 13 hits raised the Cardinal average from .375 to .381. Roulund went 2-for-4 with five runs batted in and Schreyer — the 5-foot-10 righty freshman from Woodinville, Wash. — is now 9-0 with a 1.30 ERA. … The Davis High softball team was among the 102 fans in attendance, including Stanford-bound Blue Devil Kaitlyn Lagattuta. The versatile Lagattuta is expected to be a middle infielder in Palo Alto.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-320-4456.