The Dons concluded a two-match sweep in their trip to the Pacific Northwest with a 4-1 victory over the Portland Pilots on Saturday afternoon in Portland, Ore.
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.
USF ran to a fifth-place team finish on Saturday, Nov. 5 at the West Coast Conference Championships in Malibu, Calif. The Dons were led by stellar sophomore Eric Causey, who took second place overall behind BYU’s Jason Witt.
Witt set the pace for most of the race with Causey following, until Causey moved into first on the last lap. He couldn’t hold on, though, and was passed by Witt on the final straight as they crossed the finish line. Causey lost by a nose, finishing less than a second behind the BYU senior.
Causey turned in his best time of the season in this race, running the 8,000-meter course in 23:14. He has finished in the top five in each of his four outings this season, racking up two wins, a second-place finish, and a fourth-place finish. These results earned him a spot on the 2013 All-WCC Cross Country team.
Junior Jarrett Moore was the next Don to cross the finish line, coming in 25th place with a time of 24:52. Senior Gustavo Mena came in 14 seconds after Moore, turning in a time of 25:06 and finishing 28th overall. Following the two upperclassmen were sophomore Nick Hicks and freshman Tom Bradley who finished in the top 50.
Redshirt junior Adam Smith lost his shoe near the start of the race, yet still managed to complete the course with a time of 26:25. The last Don to cross the line was freshman Patrick Kunkel, with a time of 26:31.
After the runners had completed the course and the dust had settled, USF had finished in fifth place overall out of the nine teams that ran at the meet, trailing BYU, Portland, Loyola Marymount, and Gonzaga.
The Dons now have two weeks to prepare for the NCAA West Regionals, which will take place at Haggin Oaks Golf Course in Sacramento, Calif. on Nov. 15.
After dropping Friday’s match 6-1 to WCC foes No. 6 Pepperdine, the Dons men’s tennis team brought some vengeance to the courts on Saturday, crushing Loyal Marymount in a 5-2 victory.
San Francisco won four out of six singles matches. In an unorthodox twist, singles matches took place before the doubles matches — NCAA standard tennis format is to play doubles first.
The two teams were tied 2-2 after the first four singles matches. Freshman Nils Skajaa’s 6-0, 6-1 defeat of LMU’s freshman Cristobal Rivera was the first match to be completed. LMU took the second completed match, as the Lions’ junior Sebastian Baustamante defeated junior Germain Bahri, 6-3, 6-3.
The Dons No.1 singles man, senior Thai Tu, took his match 6-2, 6-3, followed by another LMU victory in the No. 6 matchup between USF senior Richard Bucalem and the Lions’ sophomore Felix Van Kann. USF’s No. 3 senior William Schumacher and No. 2 sophomore Bernardo Saraiva came through for the Dons with 6-7, 7-6 and 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victories respectively to win the singles portion for USF.
Two more victories on the doubles side were just icing on the cake for San Francisco, who took home their first WCC win of the season.
“It was good to see the guys close a match out today with opportunities on the line,” said USF coach Peter Bartlett to usfdons.com. “The WCC conference is definitely a dog fight right now and we’ll take any win we can get.”
The Dons will face San Diego on Friday, April 5 at 1:30 p.m. in San Diego.They will not return home until they face Portland on April 19, followed by Gonzaga on April 20.
This past Easter weekend, the USF Dons played host to rivals in the WCC, the Saint Mary’s Gaels, at Benedetti Diamond. The series ran from Thursday to Saturday, and resulted in the Diamond Dons taking two out of three from the visiting Gaels. With the series win, USF improved to a season record of 13-14 and 5-4 in the WCC.
The three game set did not start out well for the Dons, with them dropping the first game to the Gaels 6-0. Saint Mary’s starter Ben Griset was dominant, allowing just four hits and striking out 10 en route to a complete game shutout. Sophomore outfielder Bradley Zimmer went 2-for-3 of the day while sophomore third baseman Bob Cruikshank and redshirt senior outfielder Bob Mott contributed one hit each. Other than the lack of offensive spark, the Dons’ poor defense played the biggest role in the upsetting loss. USF committed a season-high five errors, leading to three unearned runs by the Gaels, and ultimately the loss.
On Friday afternoon, the Dons turned it around and showed extreme resilience on the field, earning the win in extra innings. Just a day after their disappointing loss, USF displayed stellar defense behind junior starting pitcher Alex Balog and senior reliever Haden Hinkle, robbing the Gaels of a handful of hits and keeping the game close. The Dons jumped ahead early, pushing two runs across in the first inning and padding their lead with a double from Cruikshank that drove in a run in the third. Though Saint Mary’s came back to score two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth, USF managed to limit the damage to send the game into extra innings. With the score tied at three in the top of the ninth, senior center fielder Justin Maffei made a spectacular diving catch that robbed the Gaels’ leadoff hitter of extra bases.
Zimmer led off the bottom of the tenth with a walk. Pinch-hitter freshman Harrison Bruce immediately followed with a sacrifice bunt to advance Zimmer to second. With two outs and a runner on second, Mott drew a walk, leading to a two out, two on situation for sophomore first baseman Brendan Hendriks. Hendriks drove the first pitch he saw up the middle to score Zimmer and give the Dons the walk-off victory, besting the Gaels 4-3 in 10 innings.
After the game, Hendriks credited the two Dons pitchers, Balog and Hinkle, for keeping them in the game and giving the team the chance to win. He also acknowledged the team’s offensive strength at the end of the game.
“I was just glad to have the opportunity. They put together good at-bats ahead of me, Bob Mott had a great walk there, gave me the chance, and I got lucky. The ball got through, and I’ll take it,” Hendriks said of his game winning hit.
Riding on the momentum of game two, USF took the victory in the last game of the series 2-1. Through four innings, the Dons’ bats stayed relatively quiet. In the bottom of the fifth with one out, senior left fielder Mitchell Rowan and Hendriks ignited the offense with back-to-back singles before junior shortstop Josh Miller connected with a long home run into left field, tying the game at four apiece. In the sixth inning, Zimmer proceeded to seal the win with a line-drive home run to right field, and the Dons eventually defeated the Gaels 5-4.
The Diamond Dons will head for a nine game road trip and return to play a three game series at Benedetti Diamond against Loyola Marymount on April 19.
Boasting schools such as Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga, the West Coast Conference has always been known for its small schools with top-notch sports programs. In a well-known Division 1 conference, alterations and adjustments are often made that keep anticipation at the highest level, and in the upcoming 2013-14 season, the introduction of new teams and new sports should have USF students and other fans excited for the future.
One of the most notable changes that will begin next season is the installation of a new WCC Basketball Tournament format. In this previous system, a double-bye was given to the top two teams in the conference in the tournament semifinals. This year, with the addition of University of the Pacific, the WCC becomes a 10-team basketball league, meaning that the double-bye will no longer be necessary. Although this may be seen as a disadvantage for the conference’s top teams, it will certainly increase competition and ensure that the WCC champion will have to earn their trophy and fight for their place in the NCAA Tournament.
With the 10-team basketball league in place and the tournament format established, there have still been rumors that a shakeup may occur and that current WCC teams could end up leaving the conference. Due to their consistent basketball dominance and the national attention that they receive, Gonzaga seems to be the school most likely to part with the WCC. The Bulldogs currently have one of the top basketball teams in the country, and in December ESPN’s Andy Katz reported that the Zags “would love to” leave the WCC and join a more nationally recognized conference. As the rumors continue to swirl, the Big East has been brought up as the front-runner to potentially welcome Gonzaga next season. For the 2014-15 season, seven Big East schools (Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence) will be leaving the conference due to their lack of a major football program. These seven teams are hoping to break from the Big East by 2014 and establish a more basketball-based conference, and their departure opens the door for many solid small-market schools looking to gain national recognition and appreciation. Along with schools such as Creighton, Butler St. Louis, Dayton, St. Joseph’s, and Richmond, both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s have been mentioned as candidates to join the Big East. However, Gonzaga coach Mark Few has remained relatively neutral on his stance towards the issue.
“We’re happy with where we’re at but we’re going to continue to monitor everything that’s going on,” Few told SWX Right Now, a television station based in eastern Washington. “We built ourselves into a national program and we’re going to do what’s best for Gonzaga through all this. Because of our success we put ourselves in a position to where we’re attractive to other entities out there. But again, we’re going to do what’s best for Gonzaga.”
In the midst of all the possible changes for basketball teams in the WCC, a new sport is being introduced into the conference. Voted in by WCC presidents, softball will be added as a sport for the 2013-14 season, as the conference has recruited enough teams to form a complete league. Along with current WCC teams at Loyola Marymount, Saint Mary’s, Santa Clara and San Diego, Pacific, Brigham Young, Cal State Bakersfield and Utah Valley State will be joining the WCC for softball.
Around the conference, coaches and teams are all excited to play a role in the establishment of softball as an official sport. Also, with the talent that some of the teams have, the 2013-14 softball season promises to be an eventful one.
“I’m glad the WCC has made a commitment to the sport, because they have programs that have a ton of potential,” Pacific coach Brian Kolze told Jagdip Dhillon of Recordnet.com. “It looks like it will be a very good conference because this year’s RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) numbers paralleled the Big West.”
With all of these new teams and sports becoming a part of the WCC, USF athletes and students have a lot to look forward to in upcoming years. Although games against Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are always entertaining, Dons sports teams would certainly enjoy not having to face the two powerhouses multiple times each season. And with Pacific entering the WCC, fans will surely see many fierce, competitive battles between the two Bay-Area schools in the near future. To top it off, maybe the next step for the Dons is developing a softball team to join the new league. Either way, the changes taking place in the WCC ensure that the upcoming seasons will be exciting one for USF athletics, as well as for other programs throughout the conference.