Feb. 14, 2013
By Jason Alpert
Athletics Communications Assistant
DAVIS, Calif. - With a roster that boasts just six seniors, the UC Davis baseball team will rely on experience in the field and youth in the starting rotation to carry them through the 2013 season. The Aggies hope the combination is a winning one.
They'll get a good look at their roster in action this weekend when they host Washington for four games at Dobbins Stadium. The teams will open with a single game on Friday at 2 p.m. followed by a doubleheader on Saturday at 11 a.m. UC Davis and Washington will conclude the opening series with a weekend finale on Sunday afternoon at 1.
The Aggies will lean on junior Harry Stanwyck and sophomore Spencer Koopmans to anchor a starting rotation that saw its three top starters from last season graduate. In 2012, Stanwyck made 24 appearances, all out of the bullpen, and posted a 2.21 ERA. His longest outing was four innings, which he did twice last season. The Castro Valley, Calif. native struck out 32 over 40.2 innings, and was second on the team in batting average against with .236. Koopmans made five starts over 16 appearances last season, pitching 39 innings overall.
Senior Ben Burke and junior Evan Wolf will also spend time in the rotation. Burke started three games last season with his longest outing coming against San Jose State on May 15 where he went 5.2 innings, sacrificing two runs. Wolf acted as the team's fourth starter, starting all nine of his appearances. His best start came in a midweek matchup against San Francisco, where he went 6.2 innings, giving up just two runs while striking out three en route to a 5-2 victory.
"When you lose three weekend starters (Dayne Quist, Anthony Kupbens and Tom Briner) in the same year, that's a pretty big blow," second-year head coach Matt Vaughn said. "We're going to be a lot deeper in our pitching staff. The encouraging thing is that during the fall and leading up to the season, we've done a really good job throwing strikes. Whenever you can do that you're going to give yourself a chance to win baseball games."
The bullpen will be anchored by senior Patrick Hennessey and sophomore Craig Lanza. Lanza made a strong showing in his freshman campaign, finishing the year with a 3.94 ERA over 32 innings. The Danville, Calif. native sacrificed just 10 walks, good for first among Aggie pitchers with at least 30 innings of work.
Arguably, the Aggies biggest offensive strength will come at the hot corner from senior Paul Politi. The senior third baseman started all 57 games from third base and was UC Davis' offensive leader in 2012. Politi batted a team high .345 and drove in a team-high 32 runs. He was clutch when the Aggies needed him, hitting .377 with runners on base.
"Paul is the rock we build ourselves around," Vaughn said. "Last year we played 57 games and Paul started them all. He's our leader on the field by being out there everyday. The energy he brings to the team and on the field is special. He'll be a big part of the team."
Sophomore Kevin Barker made quite a splash in his inaugural Aggie campaign, batting an even .300 with a .447 slugging percentage and a .370 on-base percentage. The sophomore from San Francisco had a team leading 15 doubles and two triples. Barker split time between leadoff and the middle of the order in 2012.
Sophomores Tino Lipson and Nick Lynch will also see prominent starting time for the Aggies at second base and designated hitter, respectively. Lipson hit .306 and struck out a team low 14 times among players with at least 100 at bats. Lynch will look to bring power to the Aggie lineup as he finished 2012 with a team-high .450 slugging percentage.
The Aggies will use a trio of junior Spencer Brann and freshmen Izaak Silva and Cameron Olson to replace the production from graduated catcher Scott Kalush. Kalush was a four-year starter for UC Davis behind the plate, starting all 52 games he played in last year. The Aggies will also need to replace Brett Morgan in center field.
"We're still going to use this first weekend and develop the lineup as we go," Vaughn said. "I think the lineup and the defense will be a lot like the pitching, you'll see more guys contributing."
UC Davis will open up the season with nine straight home games, starting with Pac-12 foe Washington for a four-game set starting Friday. The Aggies will follow this up with a midweek day game against San Jose State before hosting another Pac-12 opponent in Utah, starting Feb. 22.
UC Davis will also host perennial power Stanford on Mar. 26 for a single game set. The Cardinal are currently ranked No. 7 in the preseason. Top college prospects pitcher Mark Appel and outfielder Austin Wilson highlight a strong Stanford roster. Both are expected to be top draft picks in the 2013 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
"When you can start the year with two Pac-12 opponents right of the back, and both at home, that's pretty cool," Vaughn said. We also go to Oklahoma State this year for the first time. Our non-conference schedule is getting better and better every year."
The Aggies' schedule won't get any easier as they enter Big West Conference play. The reigning conference champion Cal State Fullerton Titans come in at No. 23 with UC Irvine sitting at No. 33. Long Beach State received votes in the inaugural 2013 poll. The Aggies hosts the Titans from April 4-7, and travel to the Dirtbags and Anteaters on April 12-14 and April 26-28, respectively.
"In order to compete in conference this year, we have got to throw strikes. We have to stay healthy. And we need to play our game," Vaughn said. "We'll have to be able to execute and get guys over. We'll have to hit a little bit better with runners in scoring position. If we put everything together, we can finish in the top half of the conference."
According to the 2013 Big West Coaches Preseason Poll, Cal State Fullerton is predicted to finish first, followed by UC Irvine. UC Davis was picked to finish ninth.
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