The dugout diary: bucking the Broncos USD baseball pulls itself back into race for the WCC Championship with a sweep of Santa Clara

By Jackson Shannon

Last week was a successful one for Torero Baseball as we were able to win all four of our games. In my article last week I touched on how one of the best parts about baseball is that we play more games than any other sport, shortening the time in which we have to dwell on losses, and this week was no exception. The four-game win streak was made possible by a combination of good pitching, solid defense, just enough hitting and All-American third baseman Kris Bryant.

It all started on Tuesday with our 7-5 win over UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. The Gauchos came into the game with a 28-26 record and had previously beaten No. 5 Cal State Fullerton Titans the Sunday prior to our game.

As far as Torero pitching went, it was a “staff day”. For those of you who do not know what a staff day is, it’s simply a term the coaches use when we use at least five pitchers in a game. Since the weekend starters are not available, it’s a game between the bullpens.

Last Tuesday’s pitching rotation was a combination of senior Jack Shannon, juniors Sheldon Eckstrand, Louie Lechich and Michael Wagner, and sophomores Wes Judish and Max Homick.
“Staff days are a grind but really bring to light which team has the better staff as a whole” said pitching coach Tyler Kincaid.

I was fortunate enough to pick up my first win on the season and Homick closed out the game to pick up his fourth save. Offensively, the home run was our friend as junior Kris Bryant hit his seventeenth and Austin Green hit his third homerun of the season.

It was a solid team win for us and helped set the tone for the weekend series against the Santa Clara University Broncos.

The Broncos entered the weekend series 0-12 in the West Coast Conference. Coach Hill made sure that we didn’t come into the series thinking that playing the Broncos would be a breeze. Hill harped on staying hungry, playing every game as if it was our last and treating the Broncos like they were 12-0 in conference.

Fortunately we were able to sweep the Broncos and place ourselves right back into the WCC championship race. The highlight of the weekend was our starting pitching. It was the first series of the year that all three of our starters went deep into the game and all had quality starts.

Friday night junior Michael Wagner went six and one third innings while allowing three hits, one run and notching six strikeouts. On Saturday night, junior Dylan Covey went six innings allowing five hits, two runs and recording five strikeouts. Then on Sunday afternoon, freshman P.J. Conlon pitched six and two thirds innings while allowing five hits, no runs and recording nine strikeouts.

“I felt great out there, I had feel and command for all three of my pitches and just tried to keep the hitters off balance” said Conlon.

All three starting pitchers filled up the zone with both fastballs and off-speed pitches and dominated both sides of the zone. The bullpen did its job and was highlighted by senior Trevor Bayless who pitched in all three games and picked up two saves.

Offensively, Bryant led the way again by hitting a home run in every game. Bryant has already reached 20 home runs this season, setting a USD record and becoming the first player in the nation to reach that benchmark this season.

“You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him,” said senior outfielder Dillon Checkal about Bryant.

Besides Bryant, senior outfielder AJ Robinson and senior catcher Dillon Haupt had good weekends at the plate. Robinson led off the game Saturday night with a home run and Haupt homered in the eight to seal the victory.

Our offense was able to put up enough runs each game and put ourselves in a position to win those games, but we still need more guys than just Bryant to come up big consistently and produce runs consistently for our team if we want to get to Omaha, Neb. for the College World Series.

It was a great week for Torero baseball, and this weekend we have a pivotal series against the University of San Francisco Dons. Come out and support our team and you’ll most likely see a Kris Bryant home run.