A Torero pitcher offers behind-the-scenes insight from the USD baseball team

By Jackson Shannon

Last weekend’s series was a big one for Torero baseball as we took on our conference rivals, the Pepperdine University Waves. The Waves entered the series at Fowler Park with an 18-13 record and an impressive resume with wins against the Texas A&M University Aggies and the University of Oklahoma Sooners. The scouting report on the Waves was that they are a pretty balanced team with good starting pitching, a decent bullpen, and an aggressive lineup.

Friday’s game was a tough one for the Toreros as we struggled in several facets of the game. Junior pitcher Michael Wagner just didn’t have his normal stuff as he gave up more hits than usual and failed to finish pitching the fifth inning before being replaced.

Fortunately the bullpen kept the Waves scoreless for the final four and two thirds innings. Junior pitcher Max MacNabb kept us in the game with some quality work out of the bullpen and junior Sheldon Eckstrand and I kept the Waves scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings.

Where we failed as a pitching staff was allowing six out of the nine leadoff batters to reach base. Allowing the leadoff man to get on base substantially enhances the opponent’s ability to score. If a team allows six out of nine leadoff men to reach base, it most likely means they are going to lose the game, as was the case in this game against the Waves.

Offensively, we battled all night but the starting pitching of the Waves junior starter Scott Frazier put an end to a lot of potential scoring opportunities and their bullpen shut the door and we lost the game 7-4.

Saturday’s game was a must-win for us and we knew it. Fortunately for us, our pitching came up big as junior pitcher Dylan Covey put in a great start, throwing five and one third innings and allowing just one run while striking out six batters.

“All three of my pitches were on and I was able to consistently stay down in the zone, which really limited Pepperdine’s ability to get good contact against me” said Covey.

Freshman pitcher PJ Conlon went three innings and allowed just one run. Senior pitcher Trevor Bayless came in with one out in the ninth and shut the door, picking up his first save of the year.

Offensively we started with a bang as junior third baseman Kris Bryant led off the game with a homerun. Bryant hit leadoff for the first time in his career and launched a fastball 400 feet over the centerfield fence on the first pitch of the game. “I was sitting fastball and that’s what I got, fortunately,” said Bryant.

It was an awesome moment for Bryant and for the team as it really set the tone for the game and let the Waves know that we were going to bring it. We were able to scratch out three more runs and win the game 4-2, setting up Sunday’s game as the series clincher.

Sunday’s game didn’t go as planned as we didn’t bring the bats to the park and lost the game 5-2. I have to admit, the Wave’s sophomore left-handed starting pitcher Aaron Brown pitched a great game, going eight innings and allowing just two runs. Brown’s fastball sat in the 90s and he mixed in a good breaking ball and changeup that produced quick outs all afternoon.

The Waves were able to capitalize on some bad pitches and moments of wildness by our pitching staff but we grinded out a lot of outs and kept our team in the game. As a whole, Sunday’s game was a grind as we scratched and clawed our way throughout the game. Coach Rich Hill told our team mid-game to play like this is the last game that we would ever play as he really wanted us to give it our all.

The best part about baseball is that we play more games than any sport, shortening the time we have to dwell on losses. It’s safe to say that every game is crucial from here on out as we really need to hit our stride and rack up some wins in order to make the NCAA tournament.

We are playing pretty good baseball and I think our offense is on the verge of exploding, so this week will be a good gauge as to how the rest of the season is going to go. One thing that my teammates and I noticed this weekend was the great attendance that we had this weekend. Every game had a good crowd and the students came out to support of team. We love having support from the fans and I truly believe that it gives us an advantage over our opponents. As always I encourage everyone to come out and support our team for the rest of this season.