May 29, 2011
SPOKANE, Wash. --- Inside USF's dugout was a lineup sheet with the San Francisco logo across the top. Every once in awhile, when coach Nino Giarratano's mind wandered, he walked to the board to touch the "N" in San Francisco to remind himself to stay in the "now."
By the end of the ninth inning, Giarratano had nearly worn a hole in the paper as he began to touch the board every single pitch. Third baseman Stephen Yarrow finally gave him reason to leave that board as he made a spectacular jumping catch that sent the Dons to the center of the diamond to mob each other in celebration after winning the West Coast Conference Championship.
The Dons bested Gonzaga 4-2 on Sunday afternoon, May 29 to finish conference play 16-5 to win their second league championship in five seasons. Along with the title, USF (31-23) earned the WCC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"I can't even describe this feeling," Yarrow said. "It's unlike anything I've ever experienced, especially after chasing this dream for four years. I wouldn't trade this day for anything in the world. It's the greatest feeling I've ever had."
USF will gather at 9.m. on Monday, May 30 at the The Republic Bar, located on 3213 Scott Street between Lombard and Chestnut, to watch the NCAA Tournament's live selection show. The show airs on ESPNHD at 9:30 a.m. The team invites all friends, family and fans to join it as the Dons find out where they play next.
"I'm proud of these guys and the way they played on the road," Giarratano said. "This team deserved to win and go on to play in regionals. They will represent the WCC well."
USF never trailed, getting on the scoreboard early.
Junior Nik Balog led off the second inning with a solo home run to right center. Catcher Travis Higgs followed with an infield single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Ted LeMasters and to third on a groundout. Jason Mahood executed a push bunt to the right side to score Higgs. Pete Lavin sent Mahood to third on a full-count double down the right field line and Connor Bernatz singled to right field to send Mahood home.
Gonzaga got one run back in the bottom of the third, but USF added another run in the seventh. Adam Clear reached on an error and advanced to second on the play. Mahood notched his second base hit of the game to push Clear to third and Lavin hit a sacrifice fly to right center to score the run and put his team up 4-1.
The Bulldogs threatened in the bottom of the seventh after loading the bases with one out. Junior Jordan Remer fooled back-to-back Gonzaga hitters to end the inning with two strikeouts. Gonzaga pressed again in the bottom of the eighth with bases loaded and just one out. Remer got Marco Gonzales to fly out and then struck out Steven Holcomb looking.
USF's Friday starter, Kyle Zimmer, entered the game in the bottom ninth to ice the win for the Dons. Zimmer earned his first save of the season after pitching an inning where fans from both teams held their breath on every pitch.
Remer earned the win after yielding just one run on three hits with five strikeouts in 4.1 innings of work. Starter Jonathan Abramson threw 3.2 innings, striking out two and giving up four hits and one run.
"With [Matt] Lujan and [Garrett] Luippold out, today was one of those days where we had to look and see who would give us our best matchup with their hitters," Giarratano said. "We felt like Abramson was that guy. He pitched great and we went to Remer at the right time."
Mahood went 2-for-3 with a walk batting in the ninth spot, while Yarrow collected two walks and a hit. Lavin hit his 18th double of the season, which puts him in a tie for the eighth-best single-season doubles total.