Aggies to play in ex-pitcher's honor

Photo: Second baseman Tony Renda went 5-for-12 at the plate with three RBI this past weekend. The sophomore's .355 batting average on the season leads the team.
Ashley Chen/File
Second baseman Tony Renda went 5-for-12 at the plate with three RBI this past weekend. The sophomore's .355 batting average on the season leads the team.

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Last season, the Cal baseball team and UC Davis met twice as they usually do. It was a good year for the Aggies.

In their first meeting, a no-name senior reliever named Scott Heinig helped them to five-hit the red-hot Bears. In the second, they topped Cal, 6-5, in the ninth.

It's been less than a year since they last saw each other. Since then, one team was nearly cut while the other tried to rebuild. The Bears won some, the Aggies lost more. They've both graduated a handful of players to the professional ranks.

It's happened in a blink of the eye - a reminder that life, too, can be achingly short.

When UC Davis takes the field against Cal at 2:30 p.m. today at Evans Diamond, it will be for the first time since Heinig's death.

The Aggies postponed Sunday's game against Cal State Bakersfield to mourn, but today they'll play to heal.

"It gives us an opportunity to move forward," UC Davis coach Rex Peters said. "You never forget, but it's a chance to put the sorrow behind us."

The Aggies learned of Heinig's passing on Sunday. The 22-year-old, who was a co-captain for UC Davis last year, fell down at an off-campus house party in Davis on Saturday, after the annual Picnic Day open house. He was rushed to the hospital with critical head injuries and passed away the next day.

As a junior college transfer, Heinig worked out of the bullpen in his two years with the Aggies. In 23 career appearances, he had a 9.03 ERA. He didn't strike out a lot of guys, didn't win a lot of games, but his athletic ability wasn't what his teammates loved about him.

"He wasn't the best pitcher, but he was the best teammate and guys respected him for that and elected him as a team captain," Peters said. "He was our dugout leader. He was the guy that kept guys into the game and motivated."

It's already been a rough year for UC Davis. The Aggies enter the game with a record of 8-21.

Cal (23-9, 9-3 in the Pac-10), on the other hand, is coming off a weekend sweep of conference foe Washington that bumped it up to No. 15 in the nation, according to Baseball America.

The Bears' team ERA (2.83) is still one of the best in the country, clocking in at 20th out of 292 Division I baseball programs. Their team batting average, just a shade over .300, also ranks in the top 40.

But last year, the Bears were also a top-20 team when UC Davis played them, and that didn't prevent the Aggies - and Heinig - from winning.

"We traditionally play the Bears pretty tough, so I expect us to go out there and do well," Peters said. "A victory would be nice, but I don't think it would have to happen for us to feel good about honoring Scott in one way or another."

Tags: , CAL BASEBALL, DAVID ESQUER, TONY RENDA


Katie Dowd covers baseball. Contact her at [email protected]



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