UC Davis wins third straight series

Senior Tom Briner pitched his second straight complete game and the bats stayed hot to help lead UC Davis to its third straight Big West Conference series win.

Senior first baseman Eric Johnson went 8-10 in the two victories, scoring four times with two RBI.

The Aggies’ season-high four-game win streak was snapped in the series finale.

UC Davis improves to 24-29 overall and 10-11 in the Big West.

Friday — UC Davis 9, Cal State Northridge 5

UC Davis scored four runs in both the second and third innings to jump out to a big lead that it would not relinquish.

Senior Anthony Kupbens pitched seven innings with six strikeouts while giving up only three earned runs. Kubpens did not allow the Matadors to record a hit until the fourth inning. Freshman Spencer Koopmans pitched the final two innings, giving up one hit and one unearned run.

Already owning a 1-0 lead and runners on second and third, freshman Tino Lipson hit a two-RBI double and later scored on senior David Popkins’ double for a 4-0 advantage.

With the score 5-0 in the third and runners on second and third, senior Brett Morgan singled to bring both runners home and eventually scored himself on another Popkins double.

Junior Paul Politi scored the Aggies’ final run in the fourth after being hit by a pitch, advancing to second on a wild pitch and coming home on senior Scott Kalush’s single to left.

Saturday — UC Davis 8, Cal State Northridge 2

Briner pitched a complete game for the second straight weekend, sacrificing just one earned run while striking out seven. This was Briner’s fourth time going the distance, which leads the Aggies.

The Redding, Calif. native allowed eight hits, but carried a shutout into the ninth inning after UC Davis scored seven runs in the eighth to secure the victory and series win.

“Last week he throws 79 pitches,” head coach Matt Vaughn said, “and this outing was basically the same; we just kicked a ball but it could’ve been another shutout.”

The Aggies took a 1-0 lead in the second after Johnson singled and moved to second after Popkins was hit by a pitch, and Kalush singled to bring home Johnson.

UC Davis was stifled on offense after that as it was held hitless between the fourth and seventh innings.

But the UC Davis offense came alive late on. With one out and the bases loaded in the eighth, Johnson doubled to bring home two runs. Popkins was intentionally walked to reload the bases, and then Kalush doubled to left, scoring two more.

Morgan drew a walk to once again load the bases, and pinch hitter sophomore Spencer Brann was hit by a pitch to bring the lead to 6-0.  Lipson singled up the middle to score the last two runs of the inning and bring the Aggie advantage to 8-0. The Matadors plated two in the ninth to avoid the shutout.

“This team has had a great season and turned it around,” Vaughn said. “It was a slow start but this team and this group of seniors took it upon themselves to get this thing turned around and that’s what they’re doing and what they have done, and we’ve been playing our best ball this last month. This team didn’t quit; they’re finishing strong and it deserves to be recognized.”

Sunday — Cal State Northridge 6, UC Davis 3

Politi went three-for-four and senior Dayne Quist made his first start since April 27, but CSU Northridge scored three runs in the eighth to break a 3-3 tie and claim the series finale.

Quist pitched six innings, giving up two earned runs while striking out five.

UC Davis opened with two runs in the first after loading the bases with three straight hits from Lipson, Popkins and Politi. Junior Austin Logan brought home Lipson with an RBI single, and Johnson hit into a fielder’s choice to score Popkins.

With the scored tied at two in the fifth, freshman Kevin Barker was hit by a pitch with two outs and advanced to second on a wild pitch. A throwing error by the Matador shortstop allowed Barker to score all the way from second base.

Freshman Craig Lanza retired three straight in the seventh after giving up a leadoff single, but a three-run homer in the eighth powered the Matadors to their lone win against the Aggies.

UC Davis returns to action today at Saint Mary’s at 3 p.m. before hosting UC Irvine this weekend for the final homestand of the season.

RUSSELL EISENMAN can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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