BENEDETTI DIAMOND — The San Francisco Dons have been spoiled with ace Riley Ornido this season. The former walk-on reliever turned ace had been nothing short of dominant headed into Friday’s West Coast Conference opener against the Portland Pilots.
With a 0.69 ERA and 27 strikeouts in his 26 innings of work, Ornido had begun drawing dozens of scouts to his starts. While he didn’t get many swing-and-misses on Friday, he showed arguably a more valuable trait: Pitchability.
In Friday’s West Coast Conference opener, Ornido was far from sharp, but was gutty enough — and got enough help from his defense — to turn in his longest outing of the season in the 2-1 win. More importantly, he was able to hold back the Pilots and make up for an anemic offense that stranded nine men over the course of the afternoon.
Behind Ornido (4-1), the Dons went 3-for-15 with runners on base, 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-2 with men on third and less than two outs.
In the bottom of the second, after a line-drive leadoff single by designated hitter Robert Emery, sophomore right fielder Nick Yovetich sent the first pitch he saw from starter Eli Morse to the right side, scooting under the glove of first baseman Tracye Tammaro.
San Francisco would come up empty, though, as RJ Cordeiro struck out on a foul tip, and sophomore catcher Thomas McCarthy bounced into a 4-3 double play. It wasn’t the first time San Francisco would waste an opportunity to break the game open.
After Tommaro made up for his miscue in the top of the third with a solo home run to right — Ornido’s first home run surrendered since the Feb. 15 opener — the Dons took a lead in the bottom of the fourth on a Jonathan Allen two-run homer high over the yellow line in the right field netting. It was Allen’s fifth of the year in 17 games, after he hit seven in 57 last season.
A line-drive single by Emery and a one-out liner high off the right field netting by Cordeiro put men at the corners, but McCarthy struck out looking and Emery was cut down trying to advance home on a wild pitch, ending the inning.
San Francisco would strand four men in the first five innings, but Ornido was able to hold Portland at bay. Striking out only two, Ornido was able to get 12 groundouts, holding the Pilots to 0-for-12 with runners on base.
In the top of the fourth, an infield pop fly by Matt Kelly fell to the turf between Ornido, first baseman Riley Helland and third baseman Riki Urata, but Helland was able to cut Kelly down as he got greedy and tried to advance to second. Ornido then hit third baseman Daniel Lopez, who moved to second on a bleeder past the mound by left fielder Cody Hawkin. Ornido, though, was able to get out of the jam with a nifty change up to get Hunter Montgomery swinging to end the frame.
With a man in scoring position in the top of the seventh, he made a big stretch to field a wide flip from first baseman Riley Helland at first for the second out, and then got a groundout to second to strand a man at third.
In the top of the eighth, Ornido got a clutch play on a bunt by third baseman Riki Urata, who charged a bunt by Dutton Elske and threw to second to erase Tammaro, who reached via a full-count walk. A fly-out to center and a 5-3 ground out to ended the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Dons finally began to string hits together, with a groundball single through the right side by Cordeiro, followed up by a ringing liner to left by McCarthy, and then a picture-perfect sacrifice bunt by Urata. A hot shot back to the mound by Tyler Villaroman, though, was speared by Morse, who tagged out freshman pinch runner Brandon Greim, frozen between third and home. Helland, up with two men aboard, struck out looking to end the threat.
San Francisco loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth, but McCarthy struck out looking.
That didn’t wind up biting the Dons, as senior righty Joey Steele was able to nail down, striking out the side to earn the save.
Click here or scroll down to comment