The stands of the Harvey West baseball field were uncharacteristically packed with a large crowd of students and parents who all came out to watch the showdown between division rivals UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis.
“There was just so much build-up for [the game],” said senior George Williams III, a third baseman and the team’s co-captain. “Each week we’d check the site. We’d win our three games and they’d win their three games. We hadn’t played them, but we knew that was the game we were looking forward to all year. They finished second last year, they won the division the year before that. They’ve always been our top competition.”
Once again, the Slugs found themselves facing off with their rivals for a coveted place in the division playoffs.
Going into the game, Davis and Santa Cruz stood neck-and-neck for the division leadership with overall records of 11-1 and 10-2 respectively.
For UCSC players, this was a long-awaited series versus the team they had beaten the previous season.
Despite the build-up and palpable excitement from the eager fans, the game quickly turned sour for the Slugs as Davis pulled ahead and kept their lead for an 8-0 finish.
Although the score alone tells of a shutout, the game itself dicatated a different story.
“I didn’t think they played poorly,” said Jessica Lum, a fourth-year environmental studies major, who has attended most of the Slugs’ home games.
“I just thought the other team was really good,” she continued. “[The Slugs] did have a few little mishaps here and there, but the other team played really well.”
For the first four innings, both teams kept pace with each other, Davis arduously working up a 3-0 lead over the Slugs’ defense.
However, as the bottom of the fifth inning rolled around, the Slugs, who still hadn’t scored, faced one of the longest innings of their season.
Davis lashed out with an offensive outburst when their first two hitters doubled. Both men would eventually score. Add to that a couple defensive breakdowns for the Slugs and by the end of the fifth, Davis had ballooned the score to 7-0.
“A huge thing in baseball is momentum,” Williams III explained. “When you have to take those specific turns scoring, you always have to go one inning at a time. When it’s that slow of a game, and when you haven’t scored by the fifth inning, you start to get tense. We were just in a position that we weren’t used to. In the previous games we had such a potent offense.”
Senior Colin Murphy agrees, but also takes responsibility for the loss as co-captain and star pitcher of the team.
“I didn’t make good pitches and they just found holes,” Murphy said. “That happens in baseball and you have to tip your cap to them. They put the ball in play. They put up four runs but it wasn’t an impressive four runs. The balls would literally just find a hole.”
This offense that the Slugs exhibited the entire season was non-evident against Davis. The team struggled to hit on Davis’ pitcher who, according to Williams III, was one of the best they’d seen all season.
The Slugs only managed one hit the rest of the game when junior catcher Jon Grinnel doubled and then stole third in the seventh inning.
The Slugs unfortunately failed to take advantage of this opportunity to score and gain back momentum, however.
Regardless of the disappointing loss, the Slugs’ playoff hopes remain alive. Although UC Davis has officially won the conference, it is divided up into three regions, the Slugs belonging to the Southern Pacific (SP) region. The SP region is then divided into three divisions, and the winner of those three divisions (Davis) gets to go to the playoffs.
But “there is an at-large wild card,” Williams III said. “The people who run the [National College Baseball Association] get together and decide, based on winning percentage and the quality of opponents, which team is the next-best team of the region, and they get to go to the playoffs. At this point, we just have to win.”