There was no jumping around or fist-pumping on the mound for Jason Dufloth after Friday’s masterpiece at AT&T Park.
He didn’t even ask catcher Jonathan Norfolk for the game ball.
But with the Dons baseball team having lost four of its last six games and facing the prospect of dropping to 1-4 in West Coast Conference play after winning the title last year, the USF senior right-hander knew how important his start against rival Santa Clara in the Dante Benedetti Classic had been. The senior threw his first career complete game, allowing just two runs, striking out four and walking none as the Dons beat the Broncos 6-2.
The two teams have now split the first two games of the series and will wrap up the three-game set today at 1 p.m. back at Benedetti Diamond.
“It was a big game and I just tried to look at it as a great opportunity,” Dufloth said after USF improved to 17-16 overall and 2-3 in the WCC. “I wanted to stick to my plan, make good pitches and do the same things I do every time.”
While Dufloth was still on message even 15 minutes after his start despite the professional surroundings — the game preceded the Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers showdown — his teammates and coaches raved about his performance.
Dufloth retired 20 of the final 22 batters after allowing three straight Santa Clara hits in the third inning to allow the Broncos (16-17, 3-2) to cut the USF lead to 4-2. He threw 78 strikes in his 115 pitches, including a 2-2 fastball on the outside corner that froze David Hoffmire to end the game.
“After the third inning, he was just unreal, untouchable. That’s the best I’ve ever seen him pitch,” USF second baseman Joey Railey said. “Hopefully this game will get us going and we’ll start playing like we should be.”
It was Railey who sparked the Dons in the bottom of the first after cleanup hitter Ryan Conan gave Santa Clara a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning with an RBI sacrifice bunt. Railey ripped a single to center to lead things off and came around to score on Mitchell Bialosky’s two-out hit. Railey, a junior, then singled home a run and scored in the Dons’ three-run second inning and finished 3-for-5 with three runs scored. He also drove in the game-winning run in last year’s inaugural Benedetti Classic, a 7-6 victory over Cal.
“Railey’s always kind of our go-to guy, the guy who gets things going for us,” USF coach Nino Giarratano said. “And it was huge for us to tie things up right away in the bottom of the first and start getting some two-out hits.”
In fact, USF’s first four runs came with two outs. And after allowing three unearned runs in Thursdays’ 4-3 loss, the Dons made several nice plays in the field, highlighted by Luke Sommer’s diving catch in right field to rob Jon Karcich of a hit in the seventh. They committed just one error, a two-base overthrow by Dufloth with two outs in the seventh. But Dufloth responded by inducing a groundout by shortstop Tavo Hall to get out of the inning.
“It was great to see all the defense today after we didn’t play any [Thursday],” Giarratano said. “And if we can keep hitting, we’re going to be a tough team.”
USF 6, Santa Clara 2