Over the weekend of March 22-24, the USF baseball team went head to head with the Portland Pilots in a three game series. The games on Friday and Sunday were held at USF’s Benedetti Diamond while Saturday’s game was held at AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants, as part of the Eighth Annual Dante Benedetti Classic. The Benedetti Classic is a day of baseball dedicated to the legacy of former USF coach Dante Benedetti in partnership with the Dante Benedetti Foundation, an organization that aims to “help kids through the game of baseball.” The Dons (11-12, 3-3 WCC) took two out of three games of the series and moved within a game of .500 for the season.
Game 1 of the series saw USF’s starting pitcher redshirt junior Abe Bobb in his fifth and best start of the season. The right-hander contained the Pilots’ offense, only allowing five hits, just one walk and striking out six through 7.2 innings. Bobb was stellar in his outing and held on to a shutout into the eighth inning, which eventually earned him his first win. While Portland’s sophomore starting pitcher Travis Radke pitched well too, the Don’s timely hitting gave them just enough to claim the victory in this low scoring game. Freshman catcher Kyle Anderson started the first rally when he smacked a double to left-center in the bottom of the fifth, his first hit of the season. He eventually came around to score on senior second baseman Jason Mahood’s groundout to give USF a 1-0 lead. Mahood also drove in another run with a two-out single to right field in the seventh that plated senior center fielder Justin Maffei. The California native went 4-for-4 and combined with Mahood to produce six hits at the top of the lineup. Senior closer Adam Cimber then came into the game and successfully completed his fourth save of the season. The Dons took the first game of the series 2-1.
The second game was held at AT&T Park as part of the Dante Benedetti Classic, The Dons lost 5-1, snapping their three game winning streak. Before the game, USF head coach Nino Giarratano was recognized for his 400th win since becoming a part of the baseball program on the Hilltop.
The Pilots broke open the scoring in the third inning with four runs off USF junior starting pitcher Alex Balog. The Dons were unable to retaliate and were held scoreless through seven, scattering five hits. USF’s only run came in the eighth inning with two outs, when Maffei singled to third base and scored on Mahood’s double to left field. Maffei continued his hot hitting and went 2-for-4 that day. Portland outhit the Dons 10 to 6 to ultimately take the win.
After splitting the first two games of the series, USF proceeded to win the series on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over the Pilots in 10 innings at home. Sophomore starting pitcher Christian Cecilio was exceptional for the Dons again as he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning for the second time in his three starts. Cecilio pitched 5.1 innings before senior reliever Haden Hinkle took over to complete the game. Hinkle earned the win, improving to 5-0 for the season. The top of the Dons’ lineup provided the offensive spark for the team again, with the leadoff batter Maffei going 3-for-5 and Mahood going 2-for-3. USF jumped ahead in the third inning with a RBI from Mahood and the Pilots responded with one run in the fifth. Though the Dons managed to log 11 hits on the day, 11 runners were left on base, which resulted in the game being tied at one run apiece after nine innings. During the bottom of the 10th, with two outs and runners on second and third, junior shortstop Josh Miller hit a slow chopper towards the Pilots’ third baseman. With the third baseman charging, he attempted to bare-hand it but failed to do so. The runner on third, sophomore third baseman Bob Cruikshank, crossed home plate easily to give the Dons the 2-1 victory.
USF will face Saint Mary’s of Moraga, Calif. in a three game series this Thursday through Saturday.