Road-weary USF happy to finally be at home 

It was the scenario USF’s baseball team had dreamed of when assembling one of the nation’s the toughest nonconference schedules — having Oregon State on the ropes, leading 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, just one strike away from beating the defending national champs.

Alas, the Beavers rallied against Dons left-hander Cole Stipovich, scoring two runs with two outs to cap off a three-game sweep of USF that left coach Nino Giarratano’s squad with a disappointing 9-12 record.

USF, coming off the school’s first NCAA regional appearance, looked to prove it was one of the nation’s better programs by electing to face a number of traditional powerhouses, but the Dons came up just short in important meetings, falling 5-4 to Baylor and 2-1 to Mississippi State, along with their latest setback to Oregon State.

Still, the team remains upbeat, knowing in part that they played near-.500 ball against a loaded schedule and without a true home-field advantage, as the Dons’ Benedetti Diamond was being remodeled in the early part of this season, forcing USF to host games at the College of San Mateo, among other places.

"It’s disappointing to lose anytime in the ninth inning, when you’re one strike away from winning, especially against the defending national champs," Nino Giarratano said of the Oregon State. "But we’ve got a veteran squad and I don’t think our confidence will be rattled by these losses. We’re looking forward to getting home and playing in front of our fans."

The Dons finally get to play a traditional home game today, when they host Southern Utah at Benedetti Diamond for a three-game series. USF has enjoyed a lucrative home-field advantage over the past several seasons, including an impressive 18-4 mark last year.

USF will look to get back on the winning track by continuing to rely on its stellar pitching. Junior Aaron Poreda, one of the top left-handers in the nation, is 3-2 with a 3.89 ERA, and junior transfer Tommy Peale showed his potential by shutting out Oregon State’s hitters for eight innings in only his second start of the season.

Offensively, the Dons have struggled, batting just .259.

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Will Reisman

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