No bragging rights were gained this weekend when the USF Dons Baseball team took on the St. Mary Gaels in a three-game series, which saw the Gaels win two of the three games. The series started on late Friday afternoon with good weather and high hopes. The first game began with four uneventful innings, with equal offense and defense from both teams. It wasn’t until the fifth inning that game really started to become intriguing, with five runs giving the Dons a lead in the game. The top of the order produced all four runs for the Dons. Catcher Travis Higgs and right fielder Connor Bernatz started the inning off with a double and a single. Center fielder Pete Lavin knocked in one run, the next hitter up second baseman Jason Mahood stepped up and drove in the remaining two baserunners. Shortstop Adam Clear ended the scoring with an RBI of his own.
The Dons lost this lead in the eighth inning when the Gaels scored all nine of their runs off of seven hits and three walks. The Gaels put together a huge rally and none of the Dons pitchers could stop it. Although USF was celebrating Senior, Matt Lujans 47th starting game, tying him for Number one in all-time starts in program history, the game ended on a sad note. USF was unable to rally from behind and lost the game 9-4. Senior Jonathon Abramson was charged with the loss after giving up three runs in that disastrous 8th inning.
The second game, although low scoring, was a win for the Dons and a highlight of a game for sophomore, Kyle Zimmer. Zimmer displayed some awesome pitching on the mound Saturday, some of the best pitching the Dons have seen in awhile and the best pitching of Zimmer’s career. Striking out more than half of the Gael’s roster, Zimmer really allowed the Dons to take a win for this game. The sophomore finished the game with a career best 14 strikeouts in his 7.2 innings of work; he was simply un-hittable during this pitching gem. The 14-strikeout performance was the second highest strikeout total ever by a Don (the most in USF history is 16 by Con Dempsey in 1946.) The first and only run of the game came in the bottom of the fourth inning when Senior Pete Lavin singled and was helped with a sacrifice from Connor Bernatz and an RBI single from Jason Mahood, was sent home. Elliot Waterman finished off the game with solid pitching and no balls hit in the last inning of the game. Waterman retired four hitters using on 15 pitches. It was a nice win for the Dons.
The historic pitching performance by Zimmer was good enough to earn him West Region pitcher of the week by InsidePitching,com, an online magazine dedicated to following college pitchers. According to the site, Zimmer’s 14-strikeout performance was the highest total of strikeouts for the week.
Finally, it was Sunday and the deciding game for the series. Definitely the most exciting game of the three-game series, the Dons took the lead 2-0 early on in the first inning. Once again Bernatz and Mahood provided the offense for USF, as each hitter blasted a double while Nik Balog used a sacrifice fly to bring in Mahood. USF kept the lead and built upon it with three more runs in third, to put the game at 5-0. Mahood as he typically has all series, started the scoring for the Dons in the 5th inning with a leadoff single. Third baseman Stephen Yarrow added another single in the inning before left fielder Tom Barry knocked in Mahood with an RBI. Catcher Travis Higgs and DH Ted Lemasters each added an RBI during the inning for the Dons.
But the Gaels rallied back against the Dons with two runs in the sixth inning, and four more runs in the seventh, to give them the lead at 6-5. It would be a lead that would stand for the remainder of the game, as the Dons were not able come through with any more runs. The loss came despite strong pitching from Matt Hiserman who pitched five innings, giving up two runs on five hits and two walks. Hiserman struck out five batters and at one point retired 12 out of 13 batters. Haden Hinkle was charged with the loss after he gave up four runs in the seventh inning. Hinkle was done-in by third baseman Patrick Wisdom who hit a big three-run home run that tied the game. A run was singled in later, giving the Gaels the lead. USG Being the last game of the series, the Gaels took the win for the game and overall for the series, leaving the Dons at sixth place in the WCC.
Although the Dons didn’t take the series win, the three games were well played and highlighted some of the team’s best attributes. It gave Lujan his tie for first place with most career starts and Zimmer one of the best-pitched games USF has seen in decades. So let’s not end on a sad note, let’s say, with a win or loss, the grass is always greener on the Benedetti Diamond field. Next up for USF is a three-game series on the road against WCC rival Portland.
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