A three-hit gem from freshman pitcher Dana Cruse was wasted as the UC Davis softball team (15-27, 4-8) failed to generate any offense and dropped a 1-0 game to UC Santa Barbara (28-17, 8-4), which won the series.
“I am so proud of Dana Cruse throwing a (three-hitter) off a team that has faced some great competition,” head coach Karen Yoder said. “I tip my hat to UCSB, but I thought Dana Cruse threw a great game, and it’s unfortunate. We got baited on a stolen base and then a basic sac fly. We have to be able to throw the runner out.”
Cruse and Gaucho Shelby Wisdom, a standout at Elk Grove High School, were locked in a pitcher’s duel Saturday. Wisdom pitched all three games of the series against the Aggies, and held UCD to just four hits on the afternoon.
Yoder thought Wisdom did a good job of adjusting to the umpire’s strike zone, and brought out some different pitches in the third and final game of the series.
“It wasn’t problems; I think she did a great job of adjusting to the umpire’s zone, which I tip my hat to that, that’s what a good pitcher does,” Yoder said. “I think she brought out some different pitches today and she started ahead of a lot of our batters; we were not patient and were not waiting on our pitch. It’s something that our younger players need to focus on and learn from.”
In the top of the third, the Aggies dodged a bullet. Cruse gave up a sharp single to center to Stacy Cavazos, but Cavazos was caught at second on Kristen Clark fielder’s choice. Then, Arianna Palomares laced what looked like a double to right-center, which prompted Clark to take off sprinting from first. But Aggie right fielder Alicia Paine was able to track the line drive down and threw the ball to first to complete the double play.
The Aggie defense and Cruse’s pitching kept UCD in the game for most of the afternoon.
“I feel a lot more confident in my pitches right now,” Cruse said. “And I’m proud of my defense for really stepping up, because without them it wouldn’t have been that close of a game, so they did a great job.”
But after constantly threatening to score, the Gauchos finally cashed in on a scoring opportunity in the sixth inning. Cruse hit leadoff batter Cavazos, who followed by stealing second, which put a runner in scoring position with no outs. Clark followed suit by laying down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Cavazos over and Palomares hit a sac fly to score the only run of the game.
Although the Aggies dropped the final two games of the series with the Gauchos, they were able to win the opening game on Friday thanks to a better offensive performance.
“We did much better with hitting the ball with runners in scoring position and we didn’t do that well (Saturday),” Yoder said.
In that game, Aggie shortstop Christa Castello, Amy Nunez and Kelly Zboralske combined to go 4 for 9 and had all five RBIs in the game. With the loss, the Aggies dropped to 4-8 in Big West conference play, and remain in seventh place. Both Yoder and Cruse think the Aggies squad can continue to improve as BWC play continues.
“Come out every day and work on the fundamentals, and the key thing is being more mentally prepared for those opportunities,” Yoder said. “That’s the challenge, is being prepared and rising to the occasion when the game is on the line.”
“We have to keep working together as a team,” Cruse said. “I’m trying to step up and do my best, and we’ll come together more and more as the season goes on, so hopefully we’ll start winning some more games.”
Notes: Saturday marked the 10th annual Strike Out Cancer event for the Aggies; all the Aggies donned pink uniforms to raise awareness … Breast cancer survivor Lauren B. Tehrani threw out the first pitch after a pregame ceremony.