Former Bear Kaden Riccomini worked his way to starting pitcher for UC Davis Aggies
Kaden Riccomini has always worked hard to be the best athlete he could be. Now he has the chance to shine on the Division 1 collegiate level as a pitcher for the UC Davis Aggies.
The former Mount Shasta High School Bears standout started the season in the bullpen, but has worked his way to the starting rotation as the No. 2 pitcher as a redshirt freshman.
Last Saturday, Riccomini was the starting pitcher in game one of a doubleheader that was broadcast live on ESPN 3. Riccomini pitched 6.1 innings and had three strikeouts for the Aggies, earning the win in a 9-7 victory over Cal State Bakersfield.
Riccomini, age 20, said it's nice being back on the diamond after the COVID-19 pandemic, especially now that fans are allowed back in the stands.
In a shortened 2020 season as a true freshman, Riccomini made seven appearances and one start. He finished with a 3.72 ERA over 19 1/3 innings, striking out 19 and allowing eight earned runs.
This year, Kaden has a 2-3 record and has made nine appearances, including four starts with a 4.40 ERA and 34 strikeouts. He started this past Saturday during the Aggies home game against Cal State Fullerton. UC Davis won 9-7. Kaden threw for 4.2 innings and finished with three strikeouts in the no-decision start.
Kaden said he works on his game year-round and feels he's made progress in becoming a more consistent pitcher. He said playing at the Division 1 level – where many players he faces will someday soon play professional baseball – is a great motivation to push himself to be the best player he can be.
“Everyone is so good at this level,” he said. “Pretty much everyone on the team was their best player in high school.”
Kaden said the first month of the season, fans weren't allowed at games, which was an adjustment. “Playing without fans at times felt like a practice or a scrimmage," he said. "Having the fans cheering you on gets the team going.”
Fans were resourceful, however, and would congregate on top of a parking structure with a view of the baseball field when they weren't allowed in the stands. "You could hear them although they were a bit far away,” Riccomini said.
Among the louder voices were certainly those of his parents, Mount Shasta educators Kale and Kristen, who have always cheered him on loudly, along with his twin brother, Kole, who is playing basketball for Butte College, and younger brother Kellen, who is a freshman at MSHS.
UC Davis is currently 10-24 overall and 5-1 in the Big West Conference.
Saturday’s game against Fullerton can been seen live online on the UC Davis website. Kaden is expected to begin pitching in the game that begins at noon.
Next week, the Aggies travel to Hawaii to play the University of Hawaii in a four-game series.
Kaden said he is now throwing harder and pitching with more consistency. He's also become more comfortable on the mound. He said a big confidence boost was when he came out of the bullpen the first inning of a game against Cal Irvine, when his team was down 5-0. He was able to pitch seven innings to keep his team in the game. While the Aggies ultimately lost, Riccomini said the performance showed his coaches he could be a dependable starting pitcher, and he has started from that point on.
While he said he was fine with a role as a reliever, Riccomini's always been a starting pitcher. He said he enjoys the responsibility that goes with it and working hard to do his job and help his team win games.
Growing up, Riccomini pitched successfully and played short stop for Little League and American Legion teams, as well as Mount Shasta High School. As 9-10 South Siskiyou Little League All Stars, his team made it to the championship game in the district, and as Juniors, they won the district and the section, and made it to the Nor Cal finals.
Riccomini's U-19 Siskiyous American Legion team finished fourth in the 2018 California State Tournament in Yountville, and as a MSHS Bear, he was a career .449 hitter. His senior year, Riccomini batted .565 with three home runs, four doubles,18 RBIs and 11 runs over 23 at-bats and he didn't allow an earned run during his junior or senior seasons on the mound, with a high school career .95 Earned Run Average.
Kaden was also a standout basketball player for the Bears. He played on the team that made it to the CIF State Division V championship at Golden 1 Center in 2019. He holds the record for the most points scored by a freshman at the varsity level in the northern section, and he is the all-time leading scorer for MSHS.
This season for the Aggies, before Saturday's start, he was in the top 10 among Division 1 pitchers in his walk per 9-inning ratio, which is .70. He's also ranked 12th in the nation in his strikeout to walk ratio, which is 10.33.
Competition is tough in the Big West Conference, Riccomini said, with teams that have been ranked nationally, such as UC Santa Barbara – but he enjoys the high level of competition.
Kaden said he is focused on continuing to grow as a baseball player and he looks forward to seeing what his hard work and dedication will bring him over the next few years.
Kaden's still undecided on a major, but he's leaning toward a degree in economics.
While Davis is a large school of more than 30,000 students, the town of Davis is on the smaller side, which is something Kaden likes. He said it's a fun and welcoming environment in which to get an education. He added that the weather is nice most days, and there's no snow.
After the season and once school ends, Kaden plans to play summer baseball again and return home to Mount Shasta to see family and friends before going back to UC Davis for the fall term.