April 12, 2007
Originally published in The Santa Clara on April 12.
In last Friday's match-up against San Francisco, the Broncos found themselves in unusual surroundings. Rather than playing the second game of their road series at San Francisco's home field, the Broncos and Dons faced off at AT&T Park for the 2nd Annual Dante Benedetti Classic, hosted by USF.
AT&T Park, home of Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants, hosted a special doubleheader featuring Santa Clara against USF during the day and the Giants against the Los Angeles Dodgers at night.
"It was probably one of the coolest baseball experiences I have been a part of," said Bronco first baseman Ryan Conan. "Just being out on the same field and the same batter's box as Barry Bonds is kind of surreal."
Due in large part to untimely errors, both official and unofficial, the Broncos surrendered four unearned runs and ultimately lost the game 6-2.
Things started to turn sloppy for the Broncos in the second inning with the score tied 1-1. In the bottom of the inning, the Broncos recorded two errors and one wild pitch, allowing the Dons to cross the plate three times, all unearned runs.
"We were pretty nervous throughout the first few innings," said Conan, who committed one of the errors in the inning. "But when you look around and you still see your same teammates, you start to feel more calm."
After the wild inning, the Broncos managed to hold the Dons scoreless over the next four innings.
However, with the Dons holding on to a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning, the Broncos defensive woes returned. Steve Kalush, who relieved starting pitcher Matt Wickswat in the fifth inning, hit USF's Luke Sommer on the first pitch of the inning. Sommer stole second and reached third on an error when Bronco catcher Medica tried to throw him out. On the next pitch, the Dons' Jonathan Norfolk lined a deep shot to Juan Parra in center field for the out, but Sommer tagged up and scored to make the game 5-2.
On the day, Santa Clara recorded three errors, two hit batsmen and one wild pitch.
"There were more nerves than normal just because it's an environment that you're not used to, and I really don't think any college team would be used to something like that," said Head Coach Mark O'Brien.
On a brighter side, the Broncos were responsible for one of the more exciting plays of the day when center fielder Juan Parra reached third base on a bunt. With two outs in the top of the seventh inning, Parra laid down a bunt and the Dons' pitcher overthrew the first baseman for the attempted out. Parra raced around second and into third where he remained until the final out of the inning.
The Dons were anchored by a strong outing from starting pitcher Jason Dufloth. Dufloth pitched a complete game, gave up seven hits for two runs, and struck out four batters.
Wickswat fell to 4-4 on the season after picking up the loss. For the day, Wickswat pitched four innings, surrendered five hits for four runs (three unearned) and had three strikeouts.
Regardless of the game's outcome, the day was one to remember for both players and coaches.
"It's a once in a lifetime experience," O'Brien said. "I thought everything was first class, absolutely pristine, taken care of well and we were treated well."
Dante Benedetti, or "Mr. Baseball" as Joe DiMaggio liked to call him, has become synonymous with baseball in San Francisco. Benedetti was born and raised in the "City by the Bay," where he spent most of his life running a family restaurant and coaching baseball at USF.
Benedetti's restaurant, New Pisa, had actively sponsored local youth baseball teams while Bendetti was running the business. However, when USF's baseball team was in danger of being terminated due to lack of funding, Benedetti stepped in and saved the program.
Bendetti offered to work for free, but USF's athletic department was required by law to pay him. He received an annual salary of $1.
Benedetti managed the team for the next 16 years, accumulating a grand total of 373 wins and $16 dollars.
Asked if he could ever work for that kind of salary, O'Brien said with a laugh, "My wife would have to make a lot of money and would have to be absolutely dominating in her industry if I'm going to be making $1 a year. Either that or I'd have to win the lottery."