May 23, 2013
STOCKTON, Calif. -- Facing one of the country's best pitchers, the San Francisco Diamond Dons struck early and often and never trailed in a tight game Thursday, defeating Gonzaga 8-5 in the first game of the West Coast Conference Championship tournament at Banner Island Ballpark.
Gonzaga entered as the tournament's one-seed after winning the conference running away, three games better than the three teams tied for second, and 11-4 in games started by starting pitcher and WCC co-player of the year Marco Gonzalez. The Dons had struggled against left-handers all season, hitting a conference-low .227 against southpaws, but were able to account for 11 hits and six runs in Gonzalez's seven innings of work.
USF put three on the board in the second when Josh Miller singled in Bob Cruikshank who had earlier singled. A two-out RBI single off the bat of Justin Maffei plated Mitchell Rowan and Miller, and put the Dons up to stay.
After adding a fourth run in the third on a Derek Atkinson double, Dons starter Haden Hinkle allowed four in the bottom of the frame to knot the game after three. Hinkle, an All-WCC selection after leading the conference in ERA and batting average against, rebounded, working three more scoreless innings, and leaving with a 5-4 lead after six innings of work.
The teams traded runs in the seventh, and Abe Bobb pitched out of jams in the seventh and eighth, preserving the Dons one-run lead heading into the ninth.
The Dons, Seemingly tired of the stress of a tight game, scored a pair in the top of the ninth, including a Bob Mott solo home run, runs they would need every bit of as Gonzaga brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the frame with no outs.
After Ben Graff recorded the first out on a spectacular sliding catch by centerfielder Justin Maffei, closer Adam Cimber came on to record the final outs of the game, and seal the win for USF.
"You knew it was going to be a tough one today," said USF head coach Nino Giarratano. "Offensively we did our job against the two-time conference pitcher of the year, and all-in-all we just kept playing, and that's what you have to do. I thought we did a great job of just moving to the next pitch all day long."
USF advances to the winner's bracket and will play the winner of tonight's San Diego/BYU game tomorrow at 3:30 p.m.
A live television broadcast will be available on the WCC Network.