The Dons would shift their 3-games series a day earlier for the Easter Holiday weekend, which did not affect the Dons in any negative way. Rather the Dons were able to outlast Santa Clara in the end and sweep the Broncos.
The first game was long, exciting at times and nerve-wracking at others. The Dons had a quality first inning with one run scored by Connor Bernatz in contribution to an error by Santa Clara’s starting pitcher, Cory Hall. USF was able to increase their lead to 2-0 in the 5th inning thanks Artiz Garcia’s sacrifice bunt that advanced Tom Barry to second base where he scored on a ground hit to center field made by catcher, Mason Morika.
USF’s pitcher, Matt Lujan, gave a nice performance in 7.1 of the 13-inning marathon of a game. Lujan was able to make consistent pitches and the Broncos only scored 1 run in off of Lujan.
Unfortunate mistakes made in the 8th innings by USF’s defense handed three runs to the Broncos in the top of the inning, were redeemed by a big play made by USF pitcher, Elliott Waterman, in the top of the 9th. Waterman assisted the putout by Nik Balog retiring the Broncos lead runner and thereafter the inning ended without threat to the Dons. The score remained tied 3-3 at the end of the 9th inning.
The Dons went into extra innings to tie again in the 10th inning and no runs were scored until the bottom of the 13th inning on a sacrifice bunt made by Jared Denham in attempt to advance runners on first and second bases, Travis Higgs and Balog; however, Santa Clara’s first baseman, Curtis Wagner’s, throw to third base was erroneous and gave Balog the game-winning and ending run to a 4 hour and 36 minute game.
With one game in the bag, the second started off a little shaky with the Broncos scoring 4 runs in the first inning. The Don’s starting pitcher, Kyle Zimmer, seemed to bear the burden but shook it off right away to pitch 5.2 solid innings and produce 5 strikeouts. Despite Zimmer’s lack of experience pitching in games this season he looked natural and calm by the 2nd inning.
Trailing 5-3 in the 3rd inning the Dons made a comeback to tie the game with a run driven in by Stephen Yarrow on a ball that got away from the catcher and in the 4th inning Yarrow earned an RBI on a ground ball hit between first and second base that gave Bernatz time to take it home to tie the score at 5-5.
San Francisco would secure the win with three runs in the 5th followed by one run in the 6th, which were made by a hit Bernatz dropped toward right field for 3 RBIs while the bases were loaded after a steal of second base by Artiz. In the 6th inning, Jason Mahood was given a free ride home after Ted LeMasters cranked out a triple. USF played well when it came time to win.
After the game, I caught up with third baseman, Stephen Yarrow, and he had to say, “We didn’t play well in the beginning… a little rough, but our starting pitcher was able to steady himself and he did great and the offense came alive, we just tried to stick with it…We got a couple big hits, we got a huge hit in the 5th from Conner Bernatz to put us ahead and we got the series win already so now tomorrow we got to go out and try to sweep ‘em.”
Once again the Broncos managed to take the lead in the first inning but they would only score three more runs the duration of the game while the Don’s would execute 15 runs to end this 3-game series sweep on a high note.
Balog had six RBIs, two of those were in the second inning, which gave us the lead at 2-1. In the 3rd inning, Bernatz sent a ball flying giving the Don’s two more runs followed with Balog’s hit to center field that also brought 2 runners home for a lead of 6-2.
In the 6th inning, two more were given to the Dons RBIs thanks to Higgs and Barry who gave us an 8-4 lead. In the 8th inning, Yarrow hit a line drive down right field for a double, Balog was walked to first, and a ground ball down the center past the second baseman gave Yarrow time to run it on home for an 11-4 lead.
The Don’s finished strong bringing in four more runs due to some power hitting and a wild pitch. By the end of the 8th inning there was too much damage done for the Broncos to even consider a rebuttal. USF’s freshman left-hand pitcher, Jordan Haseltine, made an appearance and struck out one of the two last hitters for Santa Clara.
I came to realize that baseball takes every single member (pitcher, catcher, offense, and defense) to cultivate a win and that’s what USF does out there, they play as a team and that is what has made them so successful this season.
With 6 consecutive wins in the WCC, USF is now 1st in the Conference. We wish the best of luck to the Dons as they face Loyola Marymount University next.
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