This weekend the Dons had their second weekend series at Benedetti Diamond against the Gales of St. Mary’s. The Dons lost the first game on Friday 4 -2 in a tough pitchers duel against USF’s own Matt Lujan (2-4) and St. Mary’s Brian Justice (5-1). Saturday was a better outing for the Dons as they came back from a 2 – 0 deficit to win 4 – 2. Sunday the Dons won in extra innings going to 10. They won in exciting fashion by the strike of Derek Poppert’s bat in the bottom of the 10th.
On Friday the Dons (14-18, 3-3 WCC) fell to the Gales (19-13, 3-3 WCC) 5 – 2 with eight hits in the game while St. Mary’s had nine. What hurt the Dons on Friday was the four errors committed allowing more runners on base and more runs to score. Lujan gave up five hits and three earned runs and struck out seven in his six innings of play. The Gales did not score until the fourth inning making the score 3 – 0 going into the bottom of the 4th. The Gales did not score again until the seventh inning giving them two more runs. The Dons tried to catch up in the bottom of the 7th inning when senior center fielder Bobby Ethel hit a single to left and then was moved to third by a double off the bat of catcher Ryan Lipkin. Ethel then scored after senior third basemen Dane Braunecker singled to left. Lipkin then advanced to third and then scored after an error by St. Mary’s second basemen. Unfortunately the Dons could not get the bats going for any more runs and the Gales took the win.
Saturday USF battled back and took the 4 – 2 win. The Dons out-hit St. Mary’s 10 -4 and Bobby Ethel had his first homerun of the season. Junior right-hander Doug Murray (5-0) took the mound pitching eight innings for the Dons allowing just three hits, two earned runs, and struck out four. The afternoon did not look good for the Dons at first when St. Mary’s infielder Troy Channing homered to left belting in two runs. After a few more one, two, three innings the Dons were able to answer back in the bottom of the third inning. After Dane Braunecker was hit by a pitch, Steven Yarrow singled to right. Junior second baseman Robert Able then bunted Yarrow to second and advanced Braunecker to third who then scored on senior outfielder Zach Kim’s ground out at first. With Yarrow on third Bobby Ethel stepped to the plate and hit a home run blast to left field giving the Dons a 3 – 2 lead. The Dons held onto that lead and got an insurance run in the 5th to win it 4 – 2.
After coming off of Satruday’s win, the Dons were ready to take the rubber match against their WCC rivals. Junior shortstop Derek Poppert made sure that happened in the bottom of the 10th inning Poppert singled to score Robert Able to give the Dons a 7 – 6 win which took the series from the Gales. The Gales scored in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th innings but the Dons answered right back tying the game at three in the 6th inning. The Dons then took a 6 – 3 lead going into 9th inning. Sophomore Garrett Luippold came in for relief in the 8th inning but gave up a run making it a 6 – 4 game going into the 9th. Junior right hander Johnathan Abramson (2-0) came in for junior right hander Alex Kalogrides in the 9th to close out the game. Abramson gave up three hits and three more runs scored tying the game at 6 runs a piece going into the 10th inning. Abramson then pitched a perfect 10th inning giving the Dons a chance for a walk-off win. After Robert Able doubled to left field, Kim grounded out to the shortstop advancing Able to third. With two outs, Poppert stepped to the plate and singled up the middle just passed the second basemen. “I don’t think words can really describe how you feel when you do something like that,” said Poppert. “I just feel blessed that it happened.” Poppert lead the team on Sunday going 3 – 6 at the plate with a double, a single, 2 RBIs, and a stolen base. Matt Hiserman, a sophomore transfer from Santa Clara, pitched 7 superb innings for the Dons giving up only two earned runs, seven hits, and had seven strikeouts. “I had a talk with coach and Matt Lujan who pitched on Friday and they told me to take it just one pitch at a time. That really helped me stay in the zone,” said Hiserman. When asked if he was worried about the 6 – 6 tie in the 9th Hiserman said, “I think our team has battled enough with all the road games we had to play and I thought we have been through way too much not to pull it out. So no, I wasn’t really worried.”