The Dons ended an otherwise disappointing trip to Portland on an emphatic high note Saturday, claiming an impressive 7-0 victory in the second game of an afternoon doubleheader. The win came on the strength of junior left-hander Sheldon Lee’s first career complete game shutout performance, and capped a day of exceptional pitching for the Dons (20-22, 8-13 WCC).
The Dons had an opportunity to move up in the competitive West Coast Conference (WCC) over the weekend, but they let two crucial games against Pacific slip away, losing their three-game series with the Tigers and falling to eighth in the WCC in the process.
On Sunday the Dons (16-18, 6-9 WCC) lost to Pacific 12-9 in an offensive battle that saw a combined 35 hits from the two teams. Freshman right-hander Grant Goodman had a rough day on the mound as USF’s starting pitcher, giving up six runs in just four innings.
The Tigers went up quickly in the first inning, and stretched their lead to 5-0 in the third. The Dons clawed back in their half of the third, however, batting in three runs on four hits and a walk. Freshman second baseman Matt Sinatro kicked off the inning with a base on balls, and freshman shortstop Nico Giarratano, junior right-fielder Derek Atkinson, and senior designated hitter Zach Turner all delivered RBI singles for the Dons.
The game remained within the Dons’ reach throughout the middle innings, but it was in the eighth that things started to unravel. Pacific started the inning with a single from Tyler Sullivan, who scored on a sacrifice fly. RBI doubles by Gio Brusa and Erik Lockwood gave Pacific even more breathing room, and the Tigers ended the inning with an 11-4 lead.
Despite the dire circumstances, the Dons still had some life left in them. In the bottom of the ninth, USF began the inning with five straight hits, the last of them being a Sinatro double that brought home freshman pinch runner Sawyer Gieseke. Later, the Dons had the tying run at the plate with just one out and the score at 12-9, but Giarratano struck out and Atkinson’s groundball ended the game.
Center fielder Bradley Zimmer tallied four hits and two RBI’s for the Dons, and Sinatro also pitched in with three hits and two runs scored. Goodman took the loss to bring his record to 2-3 on the year.
A day earlier, the Dons escaped with a 3-2 victory that came courtesy of a walk-off single from Giarratano in the eleventh inning. Junior left-hander Christian Cecilio pitched 7.2 strong innings for San Francisco, and redshirt senior Houston Hibberd got the win to improve to 4-1 for the season.
Neither team scored until the fourth inning, when Pacific got on the board to lead 1-0. The Dons responded in the sixth, with junior catcher Justin McCullough’s RBI single tying the contest at 1-1. USF gave up a run in the top of tenth, but stayed alive in the bottom of the inning thanks to Giarratano, who scored on a wild pitch to set up his dramatic game-winning single in the following inning.
“Our back was against the wall today,” head coach Nico Giarratano told usfdons.com. “We needed to win.”
In Friday’s series opener, the Dons took a 6-3 lead but couldn’t hang on, eventually falling 11-7. Redshirt senior right-hander Abe Bobb surrendered three runs in 4.1 innings, and senior relief pitchers Jesse DeLong and Ben Graff struggled in their backup roles.
Zimmer had the crowd roaring in the first inning with a spectacular diving catch that robbed Pacific’s John Haberman of an extra-base hit. USF was down 3-2 in the game’s early innings, but exploded for four runs in the fifth. Giarratano started the action with his first ever collegiate home run, junior first baseman Brendan Hendriks hit another solo shot just three batters later, and sophomore second baseman Michael Eaton’s two-out, two-RBI double gave USF a three-run advantage. The Tigers scored a whopping eight runs in the next two innings, though, including five runs in the seventh. The Dons mustered a run in the ninth, but it was not nearly enough to bring them back from the deficit.
Eaton led the Dons with four RBI’s on the afternoon. Despite his highlight-reel catch, Zimmer went 0-5 to end his nation-leading hitting streak at 19 games.
The result of USF’s home matchup with Nevada on Tuesday, April 15 was not available at press time. With the series loss to the Tigers, the Dons are two games behind fourth-place Gonzaga, who they will have to catch if they hope to make the upcoming WCC tournament. USF will look to get back to its winning ways when they visit first-place Pepperdine for a three-game series from Thursday, April 17 to Friday, April 19.
On Sunday, the Dons closed out a three-game series in Los Angeles against LMU on a low note, losing 5-4 on redshirt senior pitcher Houston Hibberd’s eighth-inning balk that sent home the game-winning run.
USF struck first in the third game of the series, building an early 4-0 lead thanks to clutch hitting by senior first baseman Zack Turner and junior center fielder Bradley Zimmer, who has now recorded a hit in 18 consecutive games. LMU, however, scored four runs in the fifth inning, turning a 4-0 deficit into a tie ballgame.
The game remained tied at four until the bottom of the eighth inning, when LMU’s David Edwards proceeded to hit a double, steal third, and then force Hibberd into a balk. Edwards was then awarded a run, putting the Lions up by one. USF had one more chance to respond in the ninth inning, but was unable to convert. The loss puts the Dons (15-15) back at .500 on the season and 5-7 in West Coast Conference play.
On Saturday, San Francisco took care of business against the Lions, winning handily 9-3. The Dons had a big day offensively, scoring eight runs in the first two innings while junior pitcher Christian Cecilio held LMU to just three total runs in a great outing that spanned 6.2 innings. The Dons’ offense took advantage of LMU pitcher Patrick McGrath early and often, as evidenced by Zimmer’s leadoff triple. Junior right fielder Derek Atkinson knocked in Zimmer two batters later with a single back up the middle, and from then on the runs began to pour in.
After the first inning, the Dons had tallied five runs. McGrath would end up surrendering eight runs in 1.2 innings, including six earned, along with nine hits and two walks. Combining Saturday’s win with their victory on Friday, the Dons notched a two-game winning streak for the first time since March 25.
In the series opener on Friday, USF and LMU were locked in a tie ballgame until a three-run eighth inning from the Dons vaulted them ahead for good and helped them secure a 6-4 victory. Junior first baseman Brendan Hendriks broke the stalemate with an RBI single up the middle. An ensuing error by LMU second baseman David Edwards allowed two more to score and put the Dons up 6-3, a lead that would be held by Dons closer Hibberd, who fanned Edwards and forced a game-ending double play to seal LMU’s fate.
Atkinson had a productive day at the plate, accumulating three hits and an RBI. The Dons’ senior right hander Abe Bobb shut down the LMU offense, allowing only three runs to come from 13 hits while not walking a single batter. Senior left hander Ben Graff relieved Bobb, pitching 1.1 innings of perfect baseball to ensure that Hibberd had a chance at the save opportunity.
The result of the Dons’ game against San Jose State on Tuesday, April 8 was not available at press time. The Dons now turn their focus to the Pacific Tigers, whom they will host on Friday, April 11 at 3:00 p.m. in the first game of a three-game series. Pacific is tied with USF for 6th place in the WCC, and is 14-19 overall on the season.
This weekend’s series against the University of San Diego was a difficult one for the Dons, as they lost 15-9 on Friday and split a doubleheader on Sunday. The Dons are now seventh in the West Coast Conference with a conference record of 3-6.
Bouncing back strongly from a three-game losing streak, the Dons hosted the Sacramento State Hornets this past weekend, taking two out of the three matches. On Saturday, USF shut down the Hornets 9-1 on the road, and then dropped the first of a doubleheader on Sunday by a score of 6-2 before winning the second game 9-5. Although the series was scheduled to start on Friday, Mar. 28 in Sacramento, the first game was postponed due to rain and re-scheduled as part of the Sunday double-header in San Francisco.
In Game Two of the doubleheader, the Dons struggled early, giving up five runs to the Hornets through five innings. However, they then prevented the Hornets from scoring any more runs, and rallied back from the bottom of the fifth inning onward.
In the fifth and sixth innings, freshman third baseman Matt Sinatro put two beautifully placed bunts down the third baseline that resulted in overthrown balls and errors for the Hornets, and extra base runners for the Dons. These bunts supplemented the rest of the Dons’ efforts, which included three RBI’s for junior center fielder Bradley Zimmer, whose double in the sixth that scored two runners. Senior first baseman Zach Turner pitched in with two hits, and a crucial double in the sixth inning from sophomore catcher Ryan Matranga put runners on second and third. A triple by junior designated hitter Brendan Hendriks gave the Dons the lead in the seventh.
“Bradley [Zimmer] played well,” head coach Nino Giarratano told usfdons.com. “We got some good offense out of most of our lineup. It’s good to see Zack [Turner] start to turn the corner and swing the bat”.
Redshirt senior Houston Hibbert picked up the win for the Dons after shutting down the Hornets’ hitters and picking up two strikeouts along the way. His record improved to 2-0.
Game One of the doubleheader was quite the opposite, as the Dons were shaken up in the first by a two-run home run from the Hornets, and could not recover. The Dons scored two runs in the second and sixth, but ended up losing by a final score of 6-2.
Despite the loss, there were several instances worth mentioning for the Dons. One came when junior third baseman Bob Cruickshank’s made a diving stop at third base. Also, in the sixth inning, a liner was crushed towards left field, but Cruickshank made another great play and threw out the runner at first to end the inning. Junior right fielder Derek Atkinson and Matranga both accumulated doubles, and Zimmer collected an RBI single in the third.
Junior left-handed pitcher Christian Cecilio gave up three hits, including the first inning home run, but also posted a career-high eight strikeouts through six complete innings.
On Saturday in Sacramento, in the first game of the three series, the Dons snapped their three-game losing streak by blowing out Sacramento 9-1 behind redshirt senior Abe Bobb’s solid pitching and outstanding hitting from the Dons.
The Dons combined for a total of 15 hits, including a solo home run from Cruikshank in the second, and a two-run home run from Zimmer in the sixth inning.
“We were able to score in the first three innings, and any time you can do that, you are going to have success,” Giarratano told usfdons.com.
Bobb pitched for eight complete innings, gathering five strikeouts and only allowing one run with two walks.
Now 5-6 this season, the Dons will travel to Evans Diamond in Berkeley this Friday, Mar. 7 to face the University of Arkansas. The game is scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m.
USF went up early in Sunday afternoon’s game at No. 2 Cal State Fullerton, but couldn’t maintain the lead and lost the game 5-1. The loss was the second in the Dons three-game series against the Titans. San Francisco won the first match 6-5 in a grueling 19 innings, but was defeated 11-0 in the second game. This is USF’s second series loss of the year, and the defeat on Sunday drops their overall record to 3-4.
The Dons scored first in the third game of the series as freshman second baseman Matt Sinatro stole third base and went home after a missed catch. CSU Fullerton picked up the scoring from there, however, and soon went up 4-1 off of two two-run home runs by J.D. Davis and Greg Velazquez. Though they got men on base, USF was not able to bring anyone home and gave up another run to bring the game to the final score of 5-1. Titans pitcher Grahamm Wiest who showed the Dons a fierce battle all game long, striking out 10 and allowing just five hits in nine innings.
On Saturday, the Dons had an even worse outing, falling to the Titans 11-0 after an epic 19-inning game the night before. CSU Fullerton pitcher Justin Garza threw seven shutout innings while only giving up 5 hits, and accounted for 12 of his team’s 16 strikeouts.
“For us to strikeout 16 times, that’s just a collapse mentally and physically offensively, Dons head coach Nino Giarratano told usfdons.com. “We were a little tired. It’s not an excuse, they should have been just as tired as us. They were just more prepared to play every day and we need to get there.”
Just a day before, the Dons had managed to pull out a win against CSU Fullerton in a drawn out game that lasted for 19 innings. The Titans opened the scoring in the third inning off of a double-RBI by third baseman Matt Chapman, who was then batted in himself, bringing the score to 3-0.
The Dons were able to score two runs in the fourth off of an RBI home run by junior center fielder Bradley Zimmer, but they were matched by two CSU Fullerton runs in the bottom of the fourth, which further extended the Titans’ lead. USF bounced back in the sixth, however, and was able to tie the game off of another two RBI’s from Zimmer, who proceeded to score a run of his own off of a flyout to left field.
The scoring ended up staying locked at 5-5 and went into extra innings, where both teams went scoreless until junior designated hitter Brendan Hendriks ended the extravaganza with a walk-off home run that sailed over the right field wall and won the game for the Dons. Redshirt senior Houston Hibberd got the win on the mound for USF, pitching seven hitless innings while striking out six. Hibberd’s rock solid performance earned him West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Week honors.
The score of the Dons’ Feb. 25 game at Stanford was not available at press time. San Francisco will now head north to take on the Sacramento State Hornets on Friday, Feb. 28 at 2:00 p.m.