Aggie baseball opens season in the desert at UNLV Classic

Sophomore left-hander Robert Garcia gets the ball for the Aggies' season opener against Saint Mary's on Friday to open the UNLV Classic in Las Vegas. (Photo by Wayne Tilcock/Davis Enterprise)
Feb. 15, 2017

THIS WEEK…
GAME 1: UC Davis (0-0) vs. Saint Mary's (0-0)
Friday, Feb. 17, 2017
2:05 p.m.
Earl E. Wilson Stadium
Las Vegas, Nev.
Game Coverage: Tournament Central | Live Stats

GAME 2: Omaha (0-0) vs. UC Davis (0-0)
Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017
2:05 p.m.
Earl E. Wilson Stadium
Las Vegas, Nev.
Game Coverage: Tournament Central | Live Stats

GAME 3: UC Davis (0-0) at UNLV (0-0)
Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017
3:05 p.m.
Earl E. Wilson Stadium
Las Vegas, Nev.
Game Coverage: Tournament Central | Live Stats

ON THE MOUND...
Friday: LHP Robert Garcia (3-5, 2.73) vs. RHP Cameron Neff (6-3, 3.81)
Saturday: LHP Orlando Razo (4-2, 3.27 in 2015) vs. Omaha TBA
Sunday: RHP Justin Mullins (2-4, 4.79) vs. UNLV TBA

PLAY BALL: The UC Davis baseball team officially opens its 2017 campaign this weekend on the road, heading to the desert to join three other schools at the UNLV Classic. The Aggies open on Friday afternoon (Feb. 17) against Saint Mary's, continue on Saturday (Feb. 18) against Omaha, and conclude on Sunday (Feb. 18) against the host Rebels. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. on the first two days, with a 3:05 p.m. start on Sunday.

IN THE POLLS: None of the teams participating in this weekend's tournament are ranked among the preseason national polls.

YOU "LIKE" US, YOU REALLY "LIKE" US: Fans can keep up with the latest in UC Davis athletics by "liking" us on Facebook (Facebook.com/UCDavisAggies) and following us on Twitter (@UCDavisAggies). Fans can also go behind the curtain with the baseball program by "liking" them on Facebook (search for UC Davis Baseball) and following them on Twitter (@UCDavisBaseball).

ABOUT SAINT MARY'S: The Gaels return 19 letter winners -- including five position starters and nine pitchers -- off of last seasons squad that finished 33-25 overall and 18-9 in the West Coast Conference, finishing tied for first in the league during the regular season and winning the conference tournament title… Saint Mary's advanced to the NCAA Raleigh regional where the Gaels went 0-2 with losses to eventual National Champion Coastal Carolina and Navy… Offensively, Saint Mary's is led by junior infielder Zach Kirtley, who is a preseason All-America choice and member of the initial Golden Spikes Award watch list after hitting .323 with 20 doubles, seven home runs, and 43 RBI… Senior right-hander Cameron Neff paces the pitching staff a season after finishing 6-3 with a 3.81 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 82.2 innings.

SERIES NOTES: According to records that date back to 1962, Saint Mary's holds a 55-44-1 all-time record against UC Davis after taking a 7-6 mid-week decision from the Aggies last season in Moraga… Prior to that, UC Davis had won 10 of 13 from the Gaels… The Aggies lead the all-time series during the program's Division I Era, 11-7… Friday marks the first meeting away from either program's home field in the history of the two schools.

ABOUT OMAHA: Picked to finish fourth in the Summit League according to a vote of the conference's head coaches, the Mavericks return 19 letter winners, six position players, and two members of their weekend rotation, for the 2017 season… Omaha finished 28-28 overall and 18-12 in the Summit League a season ago, finishing second in the league standings… Junior infielder/right-hander Ryan Cate is the leading returning hitter, batting .317 with five home runs and 31 RBI in 52 games a season ago, while finishing 1-2 with a 5.28 ERA and five saves on the mound… Junior right-hander Corey Binger finished second on the team with an 8-3 record to go along with a 4.06 ERA, striking out 51 in just over 75 innings.

SERIES NOTES: Saturday's game with the Mavericks will mark the first meeting between the two schools in baseball.

ABOUT UNLV: Picked to finish in a tie for fifth in the Mountain West according to the league's coaches, the Rebels return 22 letter winners and six position players off of last season's squad that finished 24-32 overall and 14-16 in conference play… Junior catcher Payton Squier paces the offense, coming off a year that saw him hit .375 with 35 runs scored and 28 RBI in 55 games… The Rebels return their top four hitters, including the tandem of Kyle Isbel and Cooper Esmay, who combined for 21 doubles, 10 triples, five home runs, 63 runs scored, and 54 RBI… UNLV has lost all three members of last year's weekend rotation, returning four pitchers who finished with two wins each.

SERIES NOTES: Sunday's game with the Rebels will mark the first meeting between the two schools in baseball.

FOR OPENERS: UC Davis is 23-33 all-time in season openers according to records that date back to the 1961 season, including a 5-4 mark since becoming full-fledged Division I members in 2008… The Aggies have won three of their last five openers following last year's 12-0 loss to Portland at home… UC Davis is 4-4-1 in nine season-opening series at the Division I level, posting wins over Texas State (2015), Washington (2013), and Utah (2010 and 2012), while falling to Seattle (2014), Sacramento State (2011), No. 12 UCLA (2009), and Portland (2016)… The Aggies open on the road for only the second time in the last eight seasons -- and the fourth time overall in the program's Division I history -- this weekend in Las Vegas.

A QUICK LOOK AT THE AGGIES: UC Davis looks to rebound off a 2016 season that saw the Aggies finish 17-36 overall and 5-19 in Big West play, returning 23 letter winners and seven position starters off of last season's squad, while welcoming 10 new faces (three junior college transfers) and a pair of returning redshirts to the fold. UC Davis brings back three of its top four hitters from last season, paced by senior outfielder Mark Cardinalli, who hit a team-best .333 while battling through injury, and the duo of sophomore catcher Logan Denholm and senior infielder Cameron Olson, who combined for nine home runs and 55 RBI. On the mound, sophomore left-hander Robert Garcia will begin the season as UC Davis' Friday night starter after finishing 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA in his first year with the Aggies. UC Davis also regains the services of left-hander Orlando Razo, who missed the better part of the last two years due to injury, but posting a 4-2 record with a 3.27 ERA in seven starts back in 2015 before being sidelined. Senior right-hander Justin Mullins, who started 11 games last season, rounds out the rotation after finishing 2-4 with a 4.79 ERA and 62 strikeouts against only 13 walks.

HELLO, MY NAME IS…: Beginning with this weekend's tournament in Las Vegas, the Aggies will face four schools for the first time during the 2017 season: Omaha, UNLV, Penn State (March 8), UConn (March 10-12).

AGGIES WELCOME FOUR FALL SIGNEES: UC Davis baseball signed four players during the most recent fall signing period, adding pitchers Ryan Rodriguez (6-0, 165, RHP, Upland, Calif./Upland HS) and Brock Moffit (6-0, 190, LHP, Valley Center, Calif./Valley Center HS), along with infielders Kyler Arenado (5-10, 170, SS, Huntington Beach, Calif./Edison HS) and Joey Myers (6-0, 175, SS, Mission Viejo, Calif./Rancho Santa Margarita HS), for the 2018 season.

TO BE THE BEST…: UC Davis' 2017 schedule features a total of 17 games against six teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament a season ago -- three of those teams in the always-difficult Big West Conference -- and three conference regular season or tournament champions. UConn (date), Saint Mary's (date), Utah Valley (Dates), Long Beach State (dates), and Cal State Fullerton (dates), all earned NCAA regional berths, while conference rival UC Santa Barbara won the Nashville Regional, the Louisville Super Regional, and finished 1-2 at the College World Series in Omaha.

SUMMER LEAGUE SUCCESS: A pair of current Aggies capped off their summer seasons with All-Star honors, as junior right-hander Blake Peters was named a California Collegiate League All-Star with the Neptune Beach Pearl, while junior outfielder Ryan Hooper was named a starter in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League's All-Star Classic with the Glens Falls Dragons. Hooper hit .318 with 33 runs scored, 11 doubles, a pair of home runs, and 19 RBI, while Peters finished 4-0 in 14 relief appearances without allowing a run over 18.2 innings of work and striking out 14 while racking up seven saves.

AGGIE ALUMS TO PLAY IN WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC: UC Davis baseball alumni Daniel Descalso (2005-07) and Ty Kelly (2008-09) will compete in the 2017 World Baseball Classic as final rosters for the 16 competing countries were announced on Feb. 9. Descalso will represent Team Italy, while Kelly will play for Team Israel, when the tournament opens on March 6 with games in South Korea, Japan, the United States, and Mexico. For more information, check out the complete story at: http://www.ucdavisaggies.com/sports/m-basebl/spec-rel/020917aab.html.

CAL STATE FULLERTON PICKED TO REPEAT IN BIG WEST POLL: According to a vote of the league's coaches, defending Big West champion Cal State Fullerton is picked to repeat atop the league standings, picking up eight first-place votes en route to a total of 75 points. Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara -- a pair of NCAA Tournament teams a season ago -- were tied for second with 65 points apiece, while Cal Poly was selected fourth with 55 points. UC Irvine, which collected the final first-place vote and 48 points, was selected fifth, followed by CSUN (33), UC Riverside (27), Hawai'i (23), and UC Davis (13).