DAVIS, Calif. -- Seven NCAA Tournament teams -- including a pair of super regional qualifiers -- and a total of 24 home games at a newly renovated La Rue Field highlight the UC Davis softball team's 2018 schedule, Head Coach Erin Thorpe announced on Wednesday.
"We are excited for the opportunity to play in two of the premier tournaments in the country this year and they should be a great primer for what should be a really difficult Big West Conference," Thorpe said. "We are again able to fill up two home tournaments and it will be a tremendous experience to welcome teams to the new La Rue Field. From its vastly improved field playability to its overall new appearance, it will be incredibly exciting to move back in and make it our home."
Thanks to generous contributions to the recently established Marya Welch Initiative, the renovation of La Rue Field began in early October and is moving quickly to be ready in time for the Aggies' home opener on March 8. The entire complex has been razed, laser graded, and replanted with fresh sod. Among the improvements slated for the facility will be true dugouts for both the home and visitor sides with renovated bullpens, as well as a new concrete backstop with netting.
Improved seating will be installed behind home plate, featuring an open-air press box at the top, as well as an upgraded sound system and scoreboard that will enhance the fan experience. The entire field be wrapped in updated graphics and branding in line with other home facilities, bringing a new level of "Aggie Pride" in time to celebrate a half century of softball success.
UC Davis opens the season among the field at the Kajikawa Classic in Phoenix, Ariz., where the Aggies will be tested early, opening the year against South Dakota before taking on a pair of super regional qualifiers in Tennessee and Arizona, which each won its respective regionals a year ago. UTEP and San Diego State, the latter of which led the nation in batting average in 2017, close out the tournament.
Following a short jaunt to the Bay Area to take on NCAA qualifier California, the Aggies continue down the Central Valley to join Pacific, CSU Bakersfield, and Saint Mary's, at the Bulldog Classic hosted by regional participant Fresno State.
Another meeting with the Lady Vols kicks-off the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, Calif., near Palm Springs, in a trip that features games against National Invitational Softball Championship winner Liberty, NCAA qualifier Oklahoma State, St. John's, and another head-to-head with the Aztecs.
Following a road doubleheader at Saint Mary's, the hometown faithful finally get their first look at the squad when the Aggies cut the ribbon on their renovated home field, hosting four other schools for their first of two home tournaments. UC Davis welcomes Nevada, Utah State, Valparaiso, Northern Colorado, to La Rue Field for the Aggie Invitational beginning on March 8 against the Wolf Pack.
The very next week, the Aggies co-host their second tournament of the year along with Causeway rival Sacramento State, with the NorCal Challenge. Fairleigh Dickinson, Santa Clara, and Pacific, are among UC Davis' foes that weekend, with the annual Causeway battle with the Hornets mixed in on March 17.
Big West Conference play begins on the road on March 30, as the Aggies travel to CSUN for a three-game series, before UC Davis opens the home portion of its conference slate and celebrates a half-century of Aggie softball with alumni weekend festivities against UC Santa Barbara on April 7. More details about the alumni event will be released as they become available in the months leading up to the season.
Along with the Gauchos, who qualified for the NISC a season ago, UC Riverside (April 21-22), Long Beach State (May 5-6), and Hawai'i (May 11-12), will pay a visit to Northern California for Big West series at La Rue Field. Following the series in Northridge, other road conference series include Cal Poly (April 14-15) -- which also qualified for the NISC and advanced to the tournament's championship round, and reigning conference champion Cal State Fullerton (April 28-29).
NCAA Tournament play begins on May 18 with 16 on-campus regionals, followed by the super regional round beginning on May 25. The Women's College World Series then returns to Oklahoma City on June 1.
2018 UC DAVIS SOFTBALL SCHEDULE
Feb. 9-11 at Kajikawa Classic - Phoenix, Ariz. (South Dakota, Tennessee, Arizona, UTEP, San Diego State)
Feb. 14 at California, 2 p.m.
Feb. 16-18 at Bulldog Classic - Fresno, Calif. (Pacific, Fresno State, CSU Bakersfield, Saint Mary's)
Feb. 23-25 at Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic - Cathedral City, Calif. (Tennessee, Liberty, Oklahoma State, St. John's, San Diego State)
Feb. 28 at Saint Mary's (DH), 1/3 p.m.
March 8-12 host Aggie Invitational - Davis, Calif. (Nevada, Utah State, Northern Colorado, Valparaiso)
March 16-18 co-host NorCal Challenge - Davis, Calif. / Sacramento, Calif. (Fairleigh Dickinson, Santa Clara, Sacramento State)
March 30 at CSUN*, 3 p.m.
March 31 at CSUN* (DH), 1/3 p.m.
April 7 vs. UC Santa Barbara* (DH), 1/3 p.m.
April 8 vs. UC Santa Barbara*, Noon
April 14 at Cal Poly* (DH), 1/3 p.m.
April 15 at Cal Poly*, 1 p.m.
April 21 vs. UC Riverside* (DH), 1/3 p.m.
April 22 vs. UC Riverside*, 1 p.m.
April 25 vs. California, 4 p.m.
April 28 at Cal State Fullerton* (DH), Noon/2 p.m.
April 29 at Cal State Fullerton*, Noon
May 5 vs. Long Beach State* (DH), 1/3 p.m.
May 6 vs. Long Beach State*, 1 p.m.
May 11 vs. Hawai'i*, 3 p.m.
May 12 vs. Hawai'i* (DH), Noon/2 p.m.
May 18-20 at NCAA Regionals (Campus Sites)
May 25-31 at NCAA Super Regionals (Campus Sites)
June 1-6 at NCAA Women's College World Series (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
* denotes Big West Conference game
(DH) denotes doubleheader