Softball faces tough field in Cathedral City

Feb. 21, 2018

ON DECK…
UC Davis (7-4) at Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic
Fri.-Sun., Feb. 23-25, 2018 | Big League Dreams | Cathedral City, Calif.
TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: https://marynutterclassic.wordpress.com/

FOLLOW ALONG…
Feb. 23 vs. #11/11 Tennessee, 3 p.m. — Live Stats | Live Video ($)
Feb. 23 vs. Liberty, 5:30 p.m. — Live Stats | Live Video ($)
Feb. 24 vs. #18/16 Oklahoma State, 9:30 a.m. — Live Stats | Live Video ($)
Feb. 25 vs. St. John’s, 11:30 a.m. — Live Video ($)
Feb. 25 vs. San Diego State, 2 p.m. — Live Stats | Live Video ($)

** Rankings are listed in the order of NFCA/USA Softball coaches polls

PLAY BALL!: A trip to the desert awaits the streaking UC Davis softball team as the Aggies (7-4 overall) head to Cathedral City, Calif., as one of 32 collegiate programs participating in the 15th annual Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic at the Big League Dreams Sports Park. UC Davis is scheduled to face five programs that finished among the top 100 in last year’s final RPI, as the event opens for the Aggies on Friday (Feb. 23) at 3 p.m. against No. 11 Tennessee and Liberty.

UC Davis takes on No. 18/16 Oklahoma State on Saturday (Feb. 24) at 9:30 a.m., before closing against St. John’s and San Diego at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively, on Sunday (Feb. 25).

CAN’T MAKE THE TRIP?: For those who cannot make the trip to Cathedral City this weekend, all five of UC Davis’ games will be streamed live over the subscription site FloSoftball.com, while four of the five (at press time) will also feature live stats. Links to both the live stats and live video are available above and on the softball schedule page at UCDavisAggies.com.

IN THE POLLS: Two of the Aggies’ five opponents this weekend are ranked in the top 25 entering the week, as Tennessee comes in an the consensus No. 11 team of the nation, while Oklahoma State is ranked as high as No. 16 in the nation according to the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and No. 18 according to the USA Today/NFCA coaches poll.

SCOUTING THE VOLUNTEERS: Tennessee enters the weekend with a 10-1 overall record after posting a 4-1 record at the Michele Smith Tournament in Clearwater, Fla., last week… The Volunteers posted wins over Oklahoma State, UMass Lowell, South Florida, and Marshall, while suffering their only loss of the season against Florida Atlantic… Senior Meghan Gregg has been on fire to start the year, hitting .559 with three doubles, two home runs, and 14 RBI — one of five players hitting better than .300 on the year… Junior right-hander Matty Moss is 5-1 with a 1.35 ERA in eight appearances in the circle, striking out 22 in 31 innings, holding batters to a .188 average.

SCOUTING THE FLAMES: Liberty enters the tournament with an 8-1 overall record after taking 3-of-4 at its own Liberty Softball Challenge last week… The Flames will take on North Carolina and San Diego State in Cathedral City prior to their meeting with UC Davis... Senior outfielder Tori Zavodny paces a hot-hitting offense, batting .448 with three triples, a home run and nine RBI, through nine games this season, helping Liberty bat .318 as a team… Junior Chase Cassady is a perfect 3-0 in five appearances in the circle with a 0.90 ERA, striking out 19 in 23.1 innings and holding opponents to a .227 average.

SCOUTING THE COWGIRLS: The Cowgirls enter the weekend with an 8-2 overall record, winning their last four consecutive contests at the Michele Smith Tournament after suffering only their second loss of the season to Tennessee in the tournament opener… Through 10 games, senior utility Vanessa Shippy is hitting a team-best .640 with 17 runs scored, three home runs, and seven RBI, while freshman Sydney Pennington (17) and junior Madi Sue Montgomery (14) are in double figures in RBI… Senior right-hander Emmie Robertson is 4-0 in five appearances with a 2.15 ERA, striking out 23 in 26 innings, holding a .213 average.

SCOUTING THE RED STORM: St. John’s opened the season with a 2-3 overall record at the Florida International Invitational, posting wins over East Carolina and FIU… The Red Storm will face Arizona, San Jose State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Northwestern, before taking on UC Davis in their tournament finale… Junior utility Christina Melendez is the leading hitter, batting .600 in the five games, scoring six runs, slugging three doubles and driving in four… Junior right-hander Madison Morris holds a team-low 2.81 ERA, striking out 10 in 16 innings, while opponents are hitting .238 against her.

SCOUTING THE AZTECS: San Diego State enters the weekend with a 3-8 overall record, winning its last two games to finish off a 2-2 record at its own Campbell/Cartier Classic with wins over North Dakota State and Cal State Fullerton, snapping a six-game losing skid… The Aztecs will face Liberty, Northwesterm, Notre Dame, and Bethune Cookman, before taking on UC Davis… Junior infielder Katie Byrd leads all regulars with a .314 average, scoring five runs and driving in five… Three different pitchers have accounted for the team’s three wins, with senior right-hander Alex Formby posting a 3.23 ERA and a team-high 19 strikeouts to go with a .211 average against.

SERIES RECORDS: Tennessee leads the all-time series with UC Davis, 4-0, following a 6-0 victory earlier this year at the Kajikawa Classic… Friday will mark the third all-time meeting between UC Davis and Liberty, with the two teams last meeting in 2017, posting a 3-0 shutout at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic… Saturday’s meeting with Oklahoma State will be the first in softball… The Aggies won the only meeting with St. John’s back in 2008, posting a 7-3 win over the Red Storm at the Worth Invitational hosted by Cal State Fullerton… UC Davis earned its first-ever win in seven tries over San Diego State to close out the Kajikawa Classic by a 3-2 score in nine innings.

THE AGGIES IN CATHEDRAL CITY: This weekend marks the second straight season — and the sixth overall trip since the tournament’s inception in 2004 — that the Aggies will make the trek to Cathedral City, looking to improve upon a 7-17 overall record in their five previous appearances… UC Davis finished 2-2 at last year’s Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, posting wins over Liberty and Utah Valley, while falling to a pair of top-25 teams in Kentucky and UCLA… Frequently attracting the nation’s top programs, the Aggies have faced 10 top-25 teams in their 24 games at the tournament, and will face two more this season in No. 11 Tennessee and No. 18 Oklahoma State… UC Davis will face three opponents this weekend that they have previously faced at this event, posting a win over Liberty in 2017 and falling to both Tennessee and San Diego State in 2008.

Aggies at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic
2017: #22 Kentucky (L, 4-1); Liberty (W, 3-0); #5 UCLA (L, 9-1); Utah Valley (W, 4-3)
2014: Syracuse (L, 7-5); #24 Notre Dame (L, 12-11); UNLV (L, 11-4); Long Island (W, 4-1); #6 Oregon (L, 8-0)
2012: Fordham (W, 6-2); #6 Oklahoma (L, 10-0); #11 Missouri (L, 8-0); New Mexico (L, 7-5); Syracuse (L, 5-3)
2010: Hawai’i (L, 8-5); #13 Texas (L, 14-5); Utah (L, 2-1); #23 Northwestern (L, 7-2); #1 Washington (L, 9-1)
2008: Utah State (W, 10-1); #6 Tennessee (L, 5-2); Colorado State (W, 5-3); San Diego State (L, 8-2); Winthrop (W, 3-0)

WE’RE GOING STREAKING!: UC Davis closed out the Bulldog Classic with four consecutive victories — marking the program’s longest winning streak since the Aggies won seven straight from March 12-19 last season.

YANEZ DOUBLES UP ON BIG WEST AWARDS: Freshman left-hander Brooke Yanez didn’t give up a whole lot last week, yet she received a ton in return on Monday (Feb. 19), earning her second consecutive Big West Conference Pitcher of the Week award. Continuing a torrid start to her collegiate career, the Aggies’ animal science major finished with a 3-1 record and allowed only an unearned run over 23 innings of work against No. 23 California and four opponents at the Bulldog Classic in Fresno, Calif., as UC Davis won four of its five games at the tournament. Yanez became the first Aggie pitcher to win the award multiple times in the same season since Justine Vela won it three times in 2012 and the first hurler to win it in back-to-back weeks. Read the complete release here: http://www.ucdavisaggies.com/sports/w-softbl/spec-rel/021918aab.html.

ZERO IS HER HERO: In lowering her already microscopic ERA to 0.18 after last weeks games, Yanez has not allowed a run in her last 17.1 innings of work, and has not surrendered an earned run in her last 34.2 innings pitched dating back to the fifth inning of the season opener against South Dakota.

FRESHMAN IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Thanks to that stellar start to her career, Yanez has earned some time in the national spotlight, profiled in a Graham Hays feature on freshman starting pitchers on ESPNW.com. Read the complete story here: http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/22503357/tuesday-trend-spotting-freshman-pitchers-meghan-beaubien-alexis-holloway-brooke-yanez-start-strong-2018-ncaa-softball-season.

AGGIES IN THE NCAA: Yanez enters this weekend’s tournament ranked tied for third in the nation with five victories and stands ninth in the NCAA with her 48 strikeouts… She also ranks tied for No. 13 with two shutouts and ranks No. 34 in the nation with her 0.18 ERA… Meanwhile, at the plate, freshman Alyse Rojas ranks No. 33 in the nation with her team-high 15 hits thus far.

“LOTO” NUMBERS: With her second of two RBI against Pacific in the opener at the Bulldog Classic, senior Ashley Lotoszynski became the program’s Division I leader in career RBI with 73, passing Christa Castello’s mark of 72 set last season. Lotoszynski, who finished with a team-high six RBI on the week, now leads the way with 77 RBI for her career — needing just eight more to match Robyn Kamisher (1995-98) and Heather Hunter (1993-96) for ninth on the all-time list. Meanwhile, her three doubles over the weekend moved her into a tie with Amy Nunez (2011-15) for the top spot on the Division I list with 29 — which also places her in a five-way tie for fifth on the school’s all-time chart, needing five more to match Lindsay Moore (2000-03) for fourth.

THIS FRESHMAN IS A HIT: Newcomer Alyse Rojas was a machine at the plate last week, finishing 13-for-20 (.650) at the plate with a .682 on-base percentage, and a .750 slugging percentage in the team’s six contests. She racked up multiple hits in four of the six games to extend her team-best hitting streak to eight consecutive games — the longest by a UC Davis hitter since Christa Castello hit safely in 11 straight games from April 8-29 last season — including a career-best 4-for-4 effort in a 7-3 win over CSU Bakersfield, which was followed by a 3-for-4 outing against Saint Mary’s. The four hits were the most since Brianna Warner finished 4-for-4 against CSUN in the opener of a Big West series last season.

SETTING THE TABLE: Freshman Aly Gomonet reached base safely seven times in the Aggies’ six games last week and it paid dividends for her team, as she came around to score five times. Gomonet shares the team lead with nine runs scored alongside classmate Alyse Rojas, leads UC Davis with five walks from the lead-off spot in the lineup, and is a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen bases (second in the Big West) thus far.

AND THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING: UC Davis collected 10 hits in three of the team’s five games at the Bulldog Classic — the first time that has happened since the Aggies posted double digits in four straight contests from March 3-5 last season. After averaging 6.0 hits per game over its first six games, UC Davis’ bats have found a groove, averaging 9.2 hits per game over its last five.

RECYCLED NOTES
A QUICK LOOK AT THE AGGIES: UC Davis returns 13 letter winners, four position starters, and three pitchers, off of last season’s squad that finished 22-32 overall and 7-14 in the Big West Conference a season ago… Of the 22-woman roster, nine newcomers are featured (more on that later)… Having lost their top four hitters from last season, the offense is led by senior Ashley Lotoszynski, who leads all returners with a .259 average to go with 32 runs scored, 10 doubles, five home runs and 30 RBI… Her 32 runs were second on the team, while her 10 doubles, five home runs, and 30 RBI, all either led or co-led the team in 2017 en route to All-Big West honorable mention honors… Sophomore right-hander Katie Kibby returns for her second season in the circle for the Aggies after posting a 15-9 overall record and a 3.33 ERA in 166 innings… She finished with 80 strikeouts and held opponents to a .259 average on the year, picking up Big West honorable mention and All-Freshman Team laurels.

“HELLO, MY NAME IS…”: Name tags may be a new feature of the Aggies’ jerseys this season as nearly half of the team’s 2018 roster will be made up of newcomers. Nine of the team’s 22 players will be new to the program this season — eight true freshmen and one transfer. The eight freshmen are the most of any team in the Big West this season — and the most for an Aggie roster since the 2014 squad had the same number — while the nine newcomers are the fourth-most in the league behind Hawai’i (12), Long Beach State (11), and CSUN (10).

TITANS PICKED TO REPEAT IN BIG WEST COACHES POLL: Defending Big West champion Cal State Fullerton was picked to repeat as Big West champions in 2018 according to a vote of the league’s head coaches, receiving four of the eight available first-place votes and 57 points overall to edge Long Beach State, which received three first-place votes and 53 points. CSUN (43) and Hawai’i (32) were next in third and fourth, respectively, while UC Riverside (31) — which picked up the remaining first-place vote — and Cal Poly (31) tied for fifth. UC Santa Barbara (29) and UC Davis (12) rounded out the poll.

A GEM OF A DIAMOND: Having undergone a complete face-lift since the end of the 2017 season, the Aggies hit the dirt at the renovated La Rue Field for the first time on Feb. 2, 2018, officially breaking in the new home of UC Davis softball. The multi-million dollar project is funded, in large part, by donations to the Marya Welch Initiative for Women’s Athletics — established to raise awareness and financial support for UC Davis’ 14 NCAA women’s sports.

Construction began in early October with the entire field being razed along with the metal bleachers and dugouts. In its place, a laser graded field featuring upgraded drainage and fresh sod in the outfield, along with new dugouts, renovated bullpens, and a concrete backstop with netting behind home plate to improve sightlines for fans. A new scoreboard has been added beyond the right-field fence and the entire field is scheduled to be wrapped in updated graphics and branding in line with the other home facilities, bringing with it a new level of “Aggie Pride.”

Home of the Aggies since the late 1980's, La Rue Field was recognized as the "Softball Field of the Year" by the Sports Turf Managers Association in 1999 and has hosted six NCAA Division II West Region tournaments from 1994-02.

For more information on the Marya Welch Initiative for Women’s Athletics, or to make a contribution, visit us online at https://give.ucdavis.edu/ATHG/324041.

SAAC COIN DRIVE
Support the UC Davis Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Yolo County SPCA during the month of February as the Aggies hold their 11th annual coin drive at all home events. For the fourth year in a row, Big West Conference institutions will donate 100 percent of the funds raised to their designated charities, with the top three fundraising SAAC’s receiving a cash prize toward their SAAC budget. Over the last 10 years, conference members have combined to raise nearly $197,000.

ABOUT UC DAVIS
Providing a small-town community feel while providing a world-class academic experience, UC Davis is home to more than 37,000 students and centrally located between San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Napa Valley. The No. 6-ranked public university in the nation according to the Wall Street Journal, and among the top 10 public universities nationwide according to U.S. News and World Report, UC Davis offers nearly 100 graduate programs and more than 100 academic majors across four colleges and six professional schools, ranking among the world and nation's best in numerous disciplines, including veterinary science, agriculture, and plant and animal programs.