Dons Break Cold Streak, Spark Hope on the Hilltop

The Dons celebrate their first conference win on the Hilltop. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS M. LEUNG/DONS ATHLETICS

The Dons picked up their first win of conference play on Sunday, March 26, after a bleak start to conference play. Before overcoming Loyola Marymount in a 3-2 victory to end the series, the Dons had an 0-5 conference record. This first win of the year highlights important areas for the team to continue to hone throughout the year.

The Dons started the year with an away series against Gonzaga University. Fourth-year catcher Michael Campagna got the Dons on the board early with a two run shot to left field in the second inning. This would be the last time the Dons would hold the lead all game, as Gonzaga would tie it up in the bottom of the second. The game got away from the Dons after some command issues from first-year Hunter Holzemer, who let five runs cross with two walks and a wild pitch. The game would end with a final score of 4-10.

Campagna would help the Dons start the second game of the series in similar fashion, giving USF the lead in the 1st with an RBI single to left. And yet again, USF was unable to hold the lead for long. However, with the offensive production of Campagna and first baseman third-year Christian Stapleton, the Dons were able to have a more competitive game against Gonzaga, and were even able to tie it up 5-5 in the seventh. The duo had a combined total of six hits and five RBI, yet fell short of leading the Dons to a victory with a final score of 7-8.

The Dons would continue to have no luck at beating the bats of the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the final game of the series. The 2-8 loss would mark an unceremonious finish for Gonzaga’s sweep of the Dons.

USF faced similar struggles in the home series against Loyola Marymount. The first game on The Hilltop resulted in a 2-6 loss. LMU’s graduate student pitcher Diego Barrera kept the Dons at bay with a stellar performance, letting only two runs score with seven strikeouts in seven innings of work. 

The second game of the series was nothing short of a blowout. The 4-13 loss left little to be discussed on the Don’s performance. With their backs against the wall, and the risk of being swept twice in a row apparent to the whole roster, the Dons took the field Sunday for one more crack at LMU.

The Dons and the Lions engaged in a low scoring affair that went into extra innings. USF was able to put the pressure on in the bottom of the 9th. Second baseman graduate student Blake Atkins was able to work a walk with the bases loaded to tie the game 2-2. The Dons were finally able to secure the victory in the 11th with a solo homer from the third-year designated hitter Will Asby. Fourth-year Oscar Lepe was given the win with three scoreless innings of work.

The Dons’ main struggle this year so far has been pitching consistency. So far this season, San Francisco has accumulated a team ERA of 6.07. Their subpar ERA is a main factor for why within the six conference games, Gonzaga and LMU outscored USF by 25 runs. While the run differential of the first two series’ shows a concerning start to the year, there are many aspects of the game that the Dons are doing right. USF has kept errors to a minimum so far this season, and many members of the Dons roster are off to a good start at the plate. Campagna, third-year Mario DeMera, and fourth-year Tyler Martinez are all batting over .350 in conference play thus far. If the Dons can continue to show up on the mound as they did Sunday, the morale boosting win could shift the momentum of the season.

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