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.