The humble suicide squeeze is on the outs, at least in professional baseball. As the age of analytics comes into full flower, the bunt itself has fallen out of favor. In college baseball, though, it’s still alive and well, and on Sunday, it won the University of San Francisco Dons their fifth straight game.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the 13th inning of a 3-3 game against visiting UC Riverside, Jason Kreske, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the 10th inning, bunted the first pitch he saw from left-handed reliever Hayden Petrovick. Highlanders first baseman Yeager Taylor — who himself had entered in the top of the 13th as a pinch hitter — charged and flipped the ball to catcher Jacob Shanks.
Junior outfielder Jacob Westerman, charging home the whole way, slid headfirst, sweeping his left hand across the plate, touching off a celebration as the Dons won 4-3, earning a four-game weekend sweep headed into their first weekend of conference play.
San Francisco (10-5) would not have even been playing extra innings had it not been for some bottom-of-the-ninths heroics from senior Jonathan Allen. Trailing 3-2 after back-to-back fourth-inning home runs from outfielder Matt Hardy (two-run) and Nathan Webb (solo), Allen fell behind 0-2 with two outs and pinch-runner Greim on second base after a steal.
After hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the first to get the Dons ahead early, Allen worked the count to full in the ninth before driving the payoff pitch to the opposite field for an RBI single, bringing home pinch runner Brandon Greim, aboard in place of RJ Cordeiro, who came up with a pinch-hit single to start the game-tying rally.
Greim was also in the middle of the game-winning rally, taking an intentional walk to load the bases before Kreske’s fateful bunt. His stolen base in the ninth was San Francisco’s ninth on the weekend.
UC Riverside reliever Abbott Haffar (0-1) battled San Francisco reliever Alex Pham for six innings, all the way to the 13th. They both entered in the eighth and both struck out the side in their first innings of work. Haffar was a strike away from closing out the game in the ninth, but even after allowing the tying run he would throw a perfect 10th and 12th while striking out three more.
Pham, a sophomore righty out of Union City, threw six innings and allowed just one hit, striking out a career-high 11, notching multiple Ks in four of his six frames. Last season, Pham saw action in 23 games, all but three coming out of the bullpen. His outing on Sunday was the longest inning of his career.
The Dons will now head to Fresno State for a Tuesday tilt, before welcoming in Portland (13-4), which is coming off a sweep of Northern Colorado.