The Dons baseball team kicked off its weekend series with Bay-Area and West Coast Conference rival St.Mary’s by playing in the fifth annual Dante Benedetti Classis at AT&T Park. The Dons were actually the visitors in the game despite playing in San Francisco. USF was able to win the game behind a strong pitching performance from senior right-hander Doug Murray. Murray pitched a gem giving up only two runs on three hits while striking out three over 8.2 innings. The runs Murray gave up came at the end of the game when St.Mary’s tried to rally after trailing 4-0 for most of the game. The Dons got great production from senior Derrick Poppert, sophomore Nick Balog and freshman Jason Mahood. The trio accounted for all four of the Dons runs as they all got two hits apiece. Poppert was able to steal two bases and score a run for the Dons. Balog showed great plate discipline going 2-3 while also scoring two runs and batting in a runner. Mahood hit a two-run homerun in his in the top of the fourth that gave the Dons a 3-0 lead; he also hit a single going 2-4. Junior right-hander Matt Hiserman came in during the ninth inning to earn a save as he struck out the only batter he faced.
The following Day, USF traveled to Moraga, Calif. for the second game of a three game series against the Gaels. Unlike the first game, the Gaels beat the Dons by the score of 5-1. USF struggled to score runs the entire game as they left 11 runners on base. The Dons started the game off on a good note, as they rallied with two outs to put the first run on the board. In the top of the first, senior catcher Ryan Lipkin singled with two runners on base, being home Poppert. But USF was unable to hold the lead as starting pitcher, Junior left-hander Matt Lujan gave up three runs in the bottom of the inning. Errors killed the Dons in the first inning, as they were playing sloppy and allowed the Gaels to gain a quick lead. For the rest of the game, the Dons were held scoreless as they allowed the Gaels to add two more runs. USF game St.Mary’s a scare in the top of the ninth when they put two runners on, at second and third base with two outs. Poppert was at the plate looking to drive home the two runners but Gaels reliever Brandon Berl forced Poppert into a pop out, ending the game.
For the final game of the series, the Dons were once again in Moraga looking to win the series. Sophomore left-hander Jordan Remer started the game but only lasted 3.2 innings before leaving the game. Remer didn’t allow a run and gave up only one hit but he struggled with his control as he walked two batters and hit three batters with pitches. The Dons put the first funs of the game on the board at the top of the fourth inning when two runners scored on an error when junior Connor Bernatz hit a shot to the Gaels shortstop Mikey Reynolds. Reynolds was looking to turn a double play but second baseman Drew Fisher threw the ball into the dugout, allowing two runs to score easily. Bernatz also added a two-run homer in the sixth inning after an RBI single by Lipkin. Hiserman, who relieved Remer, picked up the win as he pitched 5.1 innings of scoreless baseball, giving up 3 hits while striking out six in an impressive outing.
The series win gave the Dons their first WCC series victory of the season, improving their record to 19-16 and 3-2 in the WCC. The Dons don’t return home until April 30th when they take on Portland for another important WCC series.