The Dons entered the weekend with the chance to leapfrog the Pepperdine University Waves into first place in the West Coast Conference Baseball Championship standings. With the Waves (21-17 overall, 12-6 WCC) idle over the weekend and the Dons hosting the last-place Santa Clara University Broncos (16-21, 4-11 entering the series), the prospect of first place seemed wrapped up with a bow on top. The Dons stumbled, however, and lost two of three to their rivals from the south.
Michael Perri started the scoring in Friday’s games with a solo home run off of Freddie Erlandson in the bottom of the first inning, his seventh of the year. The Broncos clapped back in the top of the second, as Jack Macnichols crushed a two run shot to left field against Thomas Ponticelli. With the score 2-1 in favor of Santa Clara, both pitchers settled in and allowed only six hits between them. Erlandson and the Broncos worked themselves into a jam in the home half of the seventh inning. After first basemen Ross Puskarich struck out swinging for the first out, right fielder Brady Bate singled to left side and quickly stole second. Faced with the first runner in scoring position since the third inning, Erlandson managed to strike out designated hitter RJ Cordeiro, but then walked second basemen Aaron Ping. With two outs and two Dons clogging the basepaths, Broncos coach Rusty Filter pulled the plug on his starting pitcher. Reliever Michael Praszker proceeded to walk Jack Winkler and Tyler Villaroman back-to-back, plating Bate. Praszker finally escaped the inning by striking out Jonathan Allen.
This game went to extra innings tied at 2-2. In the top of the tenth, the Broncos jumped ahead on a solo homer by Matt Smithwick off of Brendan Jenkins, who came in for Ponticelli in the ninth inning. The Dons rallied in the bottom of the inning and loaded the bases with no outs on a walk and a pair of singles. Batting against Luke Martin-Resnick, Puskarich grounded into a double play, which allowed Allen to score the tying run. Bate struck out to send the game to the eleventh, where neither team managed to score. In the top of the twelfth, Smithwick reached after being hit by a pitch, and Macnichols scored him with a double down the left field line. The Dons couldn’t rally a second time, and the Broncos took game one of the series 4-3 in 12 innings.
Game two went to 11 innings. Tied at five entering the eleventh, the Broncos erupted for seven runs off of four Dons pitchers. Daniel Smolinski gave up a three run homer to Jake Brodt. After Smolinski exited the game, Joey Steele gave up one more run before he was pulled in favor of Scott Parker, who gave up another three runs. Bo Jelinek finally got the bleeding to stop by forcing Jason Dicochea to ground out to end the inning. Facing a steep challenge in the bottom of the eleventh, the Dons managed to get a hit and walk but plated no runs and lost the game 12-5.
Looking to avoid the sweep, the Dons bounced back resoundingly in the third and final game of the series, showing the Broncos some offense of their own with a 12-4 battering in the Sunday matinee. The Dons led 6-1 after two innings and never looked back. Perri went 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI, to bring his hitting line to .354/.389/.579 on the year. The Dons also had strong performances by Puskarich (3 for 5, 2 R, 1 RBI) and Jack Winkler (3-for-5, 3 RBI).
The Dons (24-20, 13-8) will visit the Pepperdine Waves for a three game series from May 4-6, which will likely determine the top seed in the West Coast Conference.
Featured Photo: Right fielder Brady Bate contributed to the Dons’ offense in the second game of the series. KALAN K. BIRNIE/FOGHORN