Not only did the San Francisco Dons baseball team clinch a series victory with Saturday’s 9-4 win over the host Pacific Tigers, they did it with contributions from a couple of players who could be key during the final stretch of the regular season as the team bids for a West Coast Conference title.
Cleanup hitter Jonathan Allen homered twice and went 4-for-4, driving in six runs on the day to snap out of a lull, and Julian Washburn established himself as the team’s third starter by holding the Tigers to two runs over six innings, improving to 7-0.
Washburn had typically been used in a plug-and-play relief role, often following Grant Nechak on Sundays, but he got the ball from the start and took command, only allowing a two-run single to Brad Jekich in the second inning.
San Francisco (23-16, 12-6 WCC) led the whole way, largely fueled by Allen. He brought home the game’s first run with a two-out single in the opening frame, scoring Jack Winkler, and after a hit by Robert Emery, the Dons would get their third single in a row and fourth of the inning as Nick Yovetich made it a 3-0 game before the hosts could even come to bat.
Tigers starter Ryan Shreve wouldn’t make it out of the third inning, failing to get the shutdown frame after Jekich knocked in a pair. Winkler was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Riley Helland singled, with Winkler coming in to score on an opposite-field double by Allen. Helland crossed the plate on another RBI single from Emery, ending Shreve’s day. Allen delivered the big blow off Nick Swanson in the fourth, a three-run shot after Tyler Villaroman singled and Helland walked.
For good measure, Allen led off the seventh with another blast, and the only answer Pacific (21-18, 8-10) could muster would be two late runs off Joey Steele, who pitched 2 1/3 innings in a non-save situation.
As for Washburn’s outing, the right-hander was able to provide stability in what’s been a particularly difficult spot for USF this season. Riley Ornido is the staff ace and Scott Parker starts the middle game of conference series, but with Alex Pham usually relieving Parker, that left head coach Nino Giarratano searching for answers on Sunday. With Nechak limited by injuries, Landen Bourassa hurt and other depth options ineffective, Washburn has often handled the bulk of Sunday games, and though this week’s outing was a day earlier due to Easter bumping the schedule, he was able to make the most of his opportunity in a role that will be especially critical with key series coming up against the likes of Gonzaga, Pepperdine and Brigham Young.
The Dons are in a tie for first with Loyola Marymount and the Bulldogs, and in a virtual tie with the Cougars (10-5 in WCC play). Having already played LMU, they visit Gonzaga next weekend, April 26-28, and finish the conference season May 9-11 in Provo. San Francisco doesn’t get its conference bye until the last weekend of the season, when the Dons host Cal State Northridge May 17-19, meaning they need to take care of business themselves if they want to avoid being spectators in the final days of the regular season.