All posts by Ben Kaspick

Extra! Extra! Dons Win Three Straight in Extra Innings, Bradley Zimmer Named Rawlings WCC Player Of The Week

2012-13 USF Baseball vs Portland

It wasn’t easy, but the Dons pulled off a hard-fought, three-game sweep of the Santa Clara Broncos with all three wins coming in extra innings at Stephen Schott Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

With the sweep, USF improved to 20-15 overall (8-4 in the WCC) while Santa Clara fell to 9-24 (0-12 in the WCC). The Dons are tied for second place with Pepperdine (8-4), 1.5 games behind conference leader Gonzaga (11-4).

Sophomore outfielder Bradley Zimmer earned Rawlings West Coast Conference Player of the Week honors thanks to his efforts against Santa Clara, in which he went 7-for-12 with two home runs, five RBI, five runs, five walks, a double, a stolen base, and an outfield assist. Zimmer is hitting .331 on the season with seven home runs and nine stolen bases.

Game One

USF came into the series with a three-game winning streak, their third such streak of the season. In two previous attempts, however, the Dons came up short in an effort to win their fourth straight.

That all changed on Friday. The Dons clawed back after falling behind 2-0 early. In the top of the sixth, USF loaded the bases with one out. Junior catcher Zachary Turner delivered a game-tying RBI single that notched the score at 2-2. After a strikeout from freshman outfielder Harrison Bruce, sophomore infielder Bob Cruikshank nearly broke the game open as he crushed the ball to center, but senior outfielder Matt Ozanne ran it down on the warning track with his back turned to the infield.

The score remained tied until the Dons pulled through in the 12th inning. Following two hit batsmen, senior infielder Jason Mahood hit a two-out ground ball to shortstop that should have ended the inning. But Santa Clara senior infielder Justin Viele botched the throw, allowing sophomore pinch runner Jourdan Weiks to score from second, senior outfielder Justin Maffei to advance to third, and Mahood to advance to second. After Zimmer was intentionally walked to load the bases, Turner drew a walk that scored Maffei and gave the Dons a 4-2 lead.

Although he allowed a run in the bottom of the 10th inning, senior right-hander Adam Cimber (2-1) sealed the win for the Dons. Cimber pitched the final 4.1 innings for the Dons, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out eight.

Redshirt junior right-hander Kenny Treadwell (1-1) took the loss for Santa Clara.

Redshirt junior right-hander Abe Bobb started the game for the Dons and pitched well, surrendering two runs (one earned) on six hits and no walks over 7.1 innings.

“It was a hard-earned win tonight,” Head Coach Nino Giarratano said to USFDons.com. “We expected them to play well and they did. We made some mistakes early, and when we tied it their center fielder made a great play on the ball to center field.”

“We’ll take the win, they’re not easy to come by.”

 

Game Two

With a four-game winning streak finally in hand, the Dons sought to make it five in a row.

USF tallied 17 hits in the game, yet they were just 4-for-20 (.200) with runners in scoring position. Eventually, the Dons broke through and won the game 5-3 in extra innings.

Following one-out singles by Mahood and Zimmer in the top of the 13th inning, Turner delivered a clutch RBI hit that gave the Dons a 4-3 lead. Cruikshank then delivered a doubled to left field that scored Zimmer and gave the Dons a 5-3 edge.

Senior pitcher Haden Hinkle (7-1) earned the win and finished off a strong 2.2 innings of work with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 13th inning to seal the victory. Hinkle also worked out of a bases loaded, one-out situation in the bottom of the 12th inning that kept the Dons alive.

In the third inning, Zimmer clubbed an opposite field home run that gave the Dons a 2-0 lead. The home run was Zimmer’s sixth of the season, good for second in the WCC. Zimmer also notched his fourth outfield assist in the game, cutting down Viele as he tried to advance from first to third on a single to right field in the fifth inning.

Junior right-hander Alex Balog started the game for the Dons and allowed three earned runs on 10 hits and two walks over 7+ innings. He hit a batter to open the eighth inning and was pulled for senior right-hander Andrew Pulido, who escaped a first and third, one out situation to keep the score tied.

With the win, the Dons improved to 8-3 in one-run games and 4-1 in extra innings.

 

Game Three

USF completed the three-game sweep with a 7-5, 10-inning victory over the Broncos on Sunday afternoon.

With the scored tied at five in the top of the tenth inning, the Dons looked poised to take the lead when they had runners on second and third with nobody out. But Treadwell, on the mound again for Santa Clara, had other ideas, striking out two batters. With the rally seeming squandered, junior infielder Josh Miller delivered a two-run double down the left field line that gave the Dons a 7-5 edge and an eventual sweep of the Broncos.

Redshirt senior left-hander Bob Mott (2-1) earned the win and finished off Santa Clara in the bottom of the tenth inning. Mott pitched two scoreless innings, allowing no hits and two walks.

In the top of the first inning, after two quick outs, USF scored three runs on consecutive hits by Zimmer, Turner, senior outfielder Mitchell Rowan, and Miller.

In the top of the seventh inning, Zimmer blasted his seventh home run of the season (good for second in the WCC), which gave the Dons a 5-1 lead.

After two straight extra inning games, however, the USF bullpen looked taxed and could not hold the lead. Santa Clara tied the score with two runs in the seventh inning and two more in the eighth.

Luckily for USF, Miller’s tenth inning two-run double gave USF the lead and eventually the sweep.

Sophomore left-hander Christian Cecilio started for the Dons and allowed three earned runs on six hits and two walks over seven innings.

“I thought Christian Cecilio was great, our bullpen was a little tired but we did what we needed to,” Giarratano said to USFDons.com. “Maybe we’re a little worn out, but all-in-all it’s a great win. Santa Clara is the best 0-12 conference team we’ve ever played, their will and desire to come back and fight is great, but you have to give a little credit to our guys. Zach, Bradley, and Josh came up with big hits late in the game and you have to be happy with our result.”

With the win, the Dons have won nine of their last ten games and are 10-0 in games started by Cecilio this season.

USF opens a three-game series against Loyola Marymount at 3 P.M. this Friday at Benedetti Diamond.

Dons Show Promise Despite Fourth Straight Loss

The San Francisco women’s basketball team lost its fourth consecutive game Saturday, falling 69-64 to Santa Clara in front of 489 at War Memorial Gym. San Francisco also lost 84-46 at home last Thursday against Gonzaga. With Saturday’s loss, the Dons dropped to 9-15 overall (2-9 in Conference play) while Santa Clara improved to 13-11 on the season (5-6 in the WCC).

Despite a strong second half, the Dons could not dig themselves out of an early hole. San Francisco trailed 11-2 four minutes into the game and 23-5 later in the first half.

“Digging ourselves a hole like that does hurt us,” senior guard Mel Khlok said after the game. She led the Dons with 16 points, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

A three-pointer by freshman forward Taylor Proctor reduced Santa Clara’s lead to 38-24 with 4:29 left in the half and capped an 8-0 run for the Dons.

With 3:33 remaining before halftime, Proctor appeared to make a layup and draw a foul, but she was called for an offensive foul instead. Many in the San Francisco crowd booed and some directed harsh insults at the referee.

Just before the end of the half, Santa Clara turned the ball over and Khlok fired from beyond the arc at the buzzer. She missed the shot but drew a foul, and was awarded three free throws. Khlok sunk two of three, and the Dons went into the locker room trailing 44-32.

Led by redshirt junior center Ruta Zurauskyte’s 12 points on 6-7 shooting, Santa Clara shot 62.5% in the half. Twenty-one of Santa Clara’s 44 first half points (47.7%) came off of San Francisco turnovers.

“Every team has converted on our turnovers,” Khlok said.

“Once we take care of the ball and rebound, we will be all right.”

When play resumed, the Dons immediately lived up their reputation as a second half team. A block of 6’4’’ Zurauskyte resulted in a three-pointer by sophomore guard Taj Winston just seconds into the half.

Soon after, a strong defensive stop and rebound by the Dons led to the second of four three-point baskets by junior guard Alexa Hardick, which made the score 46-40 Broncos with 17:31 remaining.

About four minutes later, a San Francisco steal resulted in a three-point play for Khlok that trimmed Santa Clara’s lead to two (51-49).

“Our defense is always, always what brings us back,” Khlok said.

The crowd at War Memorial Gym erupted when Hardick hit another three-pointer that gave the Dons the lead on their next possession.

The Broncos answered when Proctor fouled Santa Clara freshman guard Brooke Gallaway as she attempted a three-pointer, putting her at the line for three shots. Gallaway hit two of three free throws, opening a 7-0 run for the Broncos.

Santa Clara maintained a one-possession lead for much of the second half, until Zurauskyte hit a jumper that made it 65-61 Broncos with 1:20 remaining.

Hardick answered with a three-pointer that trimmed Santa Clara’s lead to one (65-64) with 51.1 seconds to go.

The Broncos made a field goal, however, followed by a missed three-pointer on the other end by freshman guard Zhané Dikes. Two Santa Clara free throws later, the Broncos defeated the Dons 69-64.

Despite the loss, San Francisco outscored the Broncos 32-25 in the second half, and Santa Clara collected just two of its 23 points off of turnovers during that span.

“The first half was a little rough for us,” Proctor said after the game.

“I think in the second half we wanted it more than them. We are a second half team.” Proctor notched 14 points and five rebounds in the loss.

“We don’t want to give up. We’re fighters. Even though we get down, we always fight back. We’re the kind of team that will never give up,” she said.

Khlok suggested a simple way the Dons might turn close losses like this one into victories.

“We’ve got to come out in the first half with the same fire we have in the second half,” she said.

Khlok, a senior, also acknowledged that this team’s future is bright.

“The program is going in the right direction, and it’s been amazing. We came from getting beat by every team by 30-40 [points], then Coach Azzi came in and we started losing by smaller margins. Now look at us, we’re right in games. Once we fix the little things…we will be all right. We will win.”

Comeback Comes Up Short Versus San Diego

The San Francisco women’s basketball team nearly completed a 19-point comeback, but ultimately fell 63-61 to San Diego Saturday afternoon at War Memorial Gym. The Dons dropped to 9-13 on the season (2-7 in the WCC), while the Toreros improved to 15-7 overall (7-3 in the WCC).

Four Toreros scored in double-digits and three had as many as nine rebounds. San Diego out-rebounded the Dons 44-34 overall and 18-7 on offense.

Sophomore forward Alicia Scafidi notched her second career double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.

“It’s my job to rebound,” Scafidi said with a smile after the game.

“I just try to be consistent and do that every night.”

The Dons trailed 12-3, 23-4, and 30-11 at various points in the first half. Led by Scafidi, however, San Francisco rallied back to cut San Diego’s lead to 35-27 at halftime. Scafidi collected 11 of her 12 points in the half.

“It all starts with defense,” Scafidi said after the game.

“You get your energy from the defensive end and that transitions to offense.”

Speaking of converting defense to offense, San Diego forced 14 turnovers and collected six blocks and five steals by halftime, and 14 of San Diego’s 35 points (40%) at the half came off of San Francisco turnovers.

The Toreros opened the second half with a 16-5 run over more than six minutes of play. The Dons finally answered when senior guard Mel Khlok hit a three-pointer that reduced San Diego’s lead to 12 (54-42) with 10:14 remaining. Freshman guard Zhané Dikes hit another big three-pointer that made the score 55-47 San Diego with 8:33 to play. Khlok then connected from behind the arc again, bringing the Dons within five points of the lead (55-50) with 7:25 remaining.

San Francisco played the remainder of the second half with ferocious intensity. Sophomore guard Taj Winston embodied that spirit when she slammed into San Diego’s bench to keep the ball inbounds during a Dons rally.

Khlok continued to play well down the stretch. With 4:42 remaining, she stole the ball, drove to the basket, made a layup, and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but her field goal cut San Diego’s lead to 58-54.

Dikes hit a teardrop layup that made it 60-58 with 2:21 to play, but San Diego senior forward Klara Wischer answered with a layup that widened the Toreros lead to 63-58 with 1:05 remaining.

With 52 seconds left on the clock, Khlok again drove to the basket, scored, and was fouled. This time she hit the free throw, bringing the Dons within two points of the lead with less than one minute to play. Khlok, USF’s leading scorer, collected 15 of her 16 points in the second half.

San Francisco held strong on the defensive end, forcing San Diego to miss a contested shot as the shot clock expired. The Dons then called a timeout, trailing 63-61, with possession of the ball and 13.7 seconds remaining.

San Francisco’s comeback effort came up short, however, as Winston missed a contested jumper moments before the game clock expired.

Down 19 points in each half, the Dons lost by only two.

“It was a rough way to end, but I think we came out and we fought back,” Scafidi said after the game.

San Francisco outscored the Toreros 34-28 in the second half and turned the ball over only three times in that span.

However, the Dons made just 38.5% (5-13) of their second half free throws, 50% (10-20) overall.

“We have been [struggling] the whole season,” Scafidi said of her team’s free throw woes.

“I think it’s just a mentality. People get nervous. You go to the line and everyone’s looking at you. It’s kind of like a pressure situation, but we really we need to look at it and just say, hey, I shoot these everyday. It’s a free shot. I’m going to hit this, and it’ll go in,” she said.

Free throws aside, the Dons showed heart coming back against a quality opponent.

“We got ourselves in a big hole and we didn’t stop playing hard,” Scafidi said.

“We didn’t stop moving the ball or staying together. I think it’s a big step for us because it’s easy to give up. To challenge yourself to come back, that’s hard.”

Dons Beat BYU Behind Dikes and Proctor

The San Francisco women’s basketball team upset BYU with a 65-56 victory Saturday afternoon in front of an energetic crowd of 557 at War Memorial Gym. The Dons improved to 9-11 on the season (2-5 in Conference play) and BYU fell to 13-6 overall (4-2 in the WCC).

The Dons were led by two of their youngest players: freshman guard Zhané Dikes and freshman forward Taylor Proctor. Dikes had 19 points and seven rebounds, and Proctor added 17 points, eight rebounds, and a pair of assists, blocks, and steals.

Senior guard Mel Khlok also notched 14 points and five assists in the win.

Saturday’s victory was surprising, given that BYU pummeled the Dons to an 80-58 victory Jan. 5 in Utah.

“Last game [against BYU], it didn’t seem like we wanted it, and we didn’t really get after it,” Dikes said after Saturday’s win.

“But this game, you saw it in our eyes. I saw fire in my teammates’ eyes. We really just wanted it. We went hard every possession,” she said.

The Dons jumped out to an early 12-5 advantage and led 33-17 at halftime following an 11-0 run to close out the half.

Despite the big lead, Head Coach Jennifer Azzi did not want her players feeling too comfortable.

“We went in the locker room and wrote up ‘0-0’”, Azzi said after the game.

“We [couldn’t] think about the first half. However, [we had] confidence from the first half because our defense was outstanding.”

Indeed, San Francisco held BYU to 24.1% shooting through the first 20 minutes of play.

BYU scored seven unanswered points to open the second half, however, trimming the Dons’ lead to 33-24. BYU graduate guard Haley Steed, who lead the NCAA as of Jan. 24 with 8.0 assists per game, hit a deep three that reduced USF’s lead to 49-45 with 7:58 remaining. Another three-pointer from Steed and a BYU layup made it 58-53 Dons with 2:16 left to play. Steed collected 13 of her 19 points, two of her three assists, and all five of her steals in the second half.

“I didn’t get nervous. I knew we’d shake it off. We didn’t let that rattle us at all,” Dikes said of BYU’s comeback efforts.

Dikes hit a key jumper that made it 60-53 Dons with 1:39 remaining, and San Francisco made five free throws in the final minute to wrap up the 65-56 victory.

Azzi spoke highly of both teams after the game.

“BYU is such a good program, so for us to beat that caliber of a team…was pretty outstanding. I’m really proud of our players,” she said.

She also complimented her emerging freshmen.

“[Proctor] had a tremendous game. I think she’s getting better at reading what the defense is giving her…She’s becoming more of a complete player and she wants it,” Azzi said.

“Both [Dikes and Proctor] are so open to getting better. They’ll stay after practice, they’ll work on anything they need to work on, they’ll come in and watch film…They’re into it, and that’s what’s exciting because…the big change [when becoming a successful program] is when the players really start to own the program,” Azzi said.

With the win, San Francisco improved to 7-3 overall (2-1 in Conference play) at War Memorial Gym this season.

“We had a really good crowd today…that helps our energy a lot,” Azzi said.

“[Playing at home] just brings a whole new energy. Once we get that same intensity away, we’ll be a great team,” Dikes said after the game.

San Francisco hosts WCC opponent San Diego this Saturday, February 2nd, at 2 p.m.

SF Footy: Fast. Fun. Friendly.

It is Australia’s signature sport and the third most popular game on the globe. Its championship game is the most attended worldwide.

I, for one, hadn’t heard of it. And to the best of my knowledge, neither had you—until now.

Australian football—footy, as it is affectionately known—is fast, fun, and available to play in the Bay Area. San Francisco Footy is a co-ed, non-contact footy league co-founded by native San Franciscan and longtime footy enthusiast Jessica Estrada. The group meets once per week at various expansive outdoor spaces in San Francisco.

“SF Footy welcomes anyone to come get outside and play,” Estrada said. “Regardless if you are a current or former athlete, never picked up a ball in your life, or just looking to meet people, SF Footy has something for everyone.”

USF graduate student Robin Bishop has been involved with SF Footy since its inauguration in 2011.

“Footy is a great, unconventional game that many people enjoy for exercise, camaraderie, and fun, regardless of athletic ability, body type, or experience,” Bishop said.

So she invited me to a match last Sunday.

About 15 people showed up to the soccer field in the Sunset, and Bishop introduced me to the gang. Everyone was kind and welcoming as they encouraged me to participate in the upcoming match. I said no (at first), because I only wanted to observe.

Following some casual conversation, the group split into two teams. Each team practiced hand passes and kicks, and the game began shortly thereafter.

My first impression was that footy looked fast-paced and fun. Players ran around the field, passing the elliptical ball by holding it in one hand and whacking it with their other hand, clenched into a fist.

I also learned some of the rules. Kicking the ball through uprights scores points. There are four uprights; a kick through the inner two is worth six points and a kick between an outer upright and an inner upright is worth one.

A kick can also function as a pass. If a player catches a kicked ball before it hits the ground, that player earns the mark and is permitted to back up as far as she wants without defender interference. Earning a mark is advantageous because it gives a player the opportunity to kick the ball towards the uprights uncontested.

After the first half was over, I was once again encouraged to join in the game. This time, I accepted the request. Someone was nice enough to loan me an extra pair of cleats.

For the next 30 minutes, I played and had a great time. I learned there are many different ways to participate in footy. Running, catching, kicking, and passing are all integral and equally important parts of the game. Bishop reiterated this point after the game.

“There is always a spot for interested new players on the field, regardless of athleticism, because Aussie rules football uses so many unique skills and diverse abilities,” she said.

When the game was over, many players were sweaty, some were dirty, and all were in good spirits. It was the final match of the season and everyone prepared to go out for food and drinks. Once again, I was invited to participate. Although I had to decline, I could see why people returned to this group week after week and even hung out before and after games.

“The people who play with SF Footy are fun, inviting, encouraging, and positive,” Bishop said. “We usually go out for pizza or tacos after the games and many of us meet up outside of league games for a kick, a jog, or for a non-sport related night out.”

Even other local media recognize this attractive group. SF Footy won SF Weekly’s “Best Full-Contact Fun with (Clothed) Strangers” award for the year 2012.

“SF Footy provides a social, yet competitive place for many active San Franciscans. Footy is the greatest sport on earth, and we want to provide everyone the opportunity to learn about and how to play this crazy Australian sport,” Estrada said.

While the sport may seem crazy at first, veterans like Estrada and Bishop make it seem safe for all.

“Anyone can play SF Footy,” Bishop said. “The tag version of the sport is set up to maximize fun and safety. The veterans love to teach new people how to play the game and everyone is encouraging.”

Indeed, I could not have felt more welcomed by this group. Before, during, and after the match, everyone was polite and inviting.

SF Footy has something for everyone. Whether you want to meet new people, try new things, or exercise in a fun and dynamic way, SF Footy will welcome you with open arms.

For more information about SF Footy, check them out online at www.SFFooty.com.

 

Future Looks Bright For Women’s Soccer Team Despite 5-0 Loss In Finale

The women’s soccer team fell 5-0 to No. 22 Portland Saturday in their season finale at Merlo Field. USF finished the season 7-8-4 overall and 2-5-1 in the West Coast Conference. With the win, the Pilots improved to 11-4-4 overall and 5-1-2 in the WCC.

Rebekah Kurle scored Portland’s first goal off an assist by Kendall Johnson at the 2:38 mark of the first half. Kurle added another goal at the 13:27 mark of the first half off an assist by Amanda Frisbee.

Emily Sippel scored two goals of her own, the first at the 20:43 mark of the first half off assists by Frisbee and Michelle Cruz, and the second was unassisted at the 76:33 mark of the second half. Develyn Jeter made it 5-0 with an unassisted goal at the 85:36 mark of the second half.

Despite the result of this final game, the Dons’ 2012 season was one of improvement and promise.

“Now that the season is over, I can really see how far we’ve come as a team. We have grown so much from preseason as a whole and individually,” senior defender Kelly Farrell said.

USF indeed improved this year under new head coach Jim Millinder. Last year, the Dons finished 6-14-0 overall and 2-6-0 in conference play. This year’s team lost six fewer games than the 2011 team, and they showed marked improvement against nationally ranked Santa Clara.

Although the Dons fell behind early against No. 17 Santa Clara on Senior Night, USF fought back to force a 2-2 draw Oct. 26 at Negoesco Stadium. According to usfdons.com, it was the first time in nearly three decades the Dons earned points against the Broncos. Prior to Friday’s game, the Broncos had historically outscored the Dons 75-6.

“The highlight of the season was definitely when we tied Santa Clara for the first time ever on Senior Night. It was not only a great way to finish my last home game, but it really represents where this team is headed. We are more than capable of competing with top-20 teams now,” Farrell said.

Farrell’s elation about the team’s progress turned to nostalgia when she reflected on the fact that she had played her last game as a member of this team.

“I’ll miss the feeling of camaraderie with my teammates the most. They are like my second family and I’ll definitely miss seeing them day in and day out on the field,” Farrell said.

Despite her sadness about leaving the team, Farrell is optimistic about the Dons’ future.

“I truly believe this team can make it to the NCAA tournament next year and has a bright future ahead. We have worked very hard this season to build a strong foundation for next year. I hope that making it to the NCAA tournament becomes a tradition for USF women’s soccer and not just a dream,” Farrell said.

If the team’s historic draw against Santa Clara or their improved overall record is any indication, Farrell’s dream may soon become a reality.