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Zim-sanity in San Francisco for
By Taylor Gelbrich @According2Gelby
Those were the cheers coach Nino Giarratano heard
as he merged from the dugout at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los
Angeles. His University of San Francisco squad had just upset
No. 12 UCLA 3-0 in UCLA’s regional.
They had just beaten the future No. 1 pick in the
MLB Draft in Gerrit Cole. Giarratano emerged to see the small
army of 600 gold jerseys and shirts in a sea of powder blue
proudly chanting USF. Giarratano and USF weren’t supposed to
have this moment. They were the underdogs, but junior
right-hander Kyle Zimmer had other plans.
“I felt it in the bullpen,” Zimmer said. “My
stuff felt pretty good, but around the second inning I think my
stuff started settling in and I felt like my stuff was starting
Cole’s fastball consistently hits the upper 90s
and comes back with a power slider and change-up. He was
supposed to dominate the Dons, but it didn’t happen. The 6’4
Zimmer sports a low 90s fastball with a good change-up and
curveball. He retired the first 11 batters he faced until he
gave up a single. He came right back and retired the next 14.
The game was all but over for Zimmer as he struck
out the first two batters in the ninth until the Bruins loaded
up the bases.
“I was like, OK, settle back down and make
pitches,” said Zimmer “I sort of stepped off, took a deep breath
and said there’s absolutely zero chance that any one of these
guys are going to cross home plate right now. This is going to
end right now.”
Zimmer got his win while throwing a complete
game, racking up 11 strikeouts and giving up only four hits. The
testament of Zimmer’s dominance was his command. Out of his 115
pitches thrown, 85 were for strikes.
“Everything was working,” catcher Mason Morioka
said. “He has a pretty dominant fastball, a great curveball, an
above-average change-up and he is starting to develop a slider
now. I think the thing that got him through that game was
getting ahead of hitters and finishing them off.”
It was Zimmer’s game to lose and Giarratano
wasn’t going to take the ball out of his hand.
“I thought from the very beginning in inning
number one when he went out there and he was aggressive,”
Giarratano said. “He didn’t see all the fans and he was just in
the present moment. I was convinced he was going to give us
every opportunity to win.”
UCLA had USF’s number all year. The two teams
played a three-game series early in the 2011 season with the
Bruins taking all three games, but this night was different.
“Offensively we were able to execute against
Gerrit Cole early and it gave us confidence,” Giarratano said.
“As we added to the lead and as Kyle continued to pitch, the
difference maker was us able to play ahead of them one time as
opposed to playing behind them, and that was the first time we
had been ahead of them in 28 innings.”
Zimmer ended the 2011 season with a 6-4 record
and 89 strikeouts in 91.2 innings. He also had a 3.73 ERA and
went 4-1 in conference play.
USF plans on taking its momentum from last year
and putting towards defending its West Coast Conference title
this year. The Dons lost a lot of guys from last year’s team,
but they look to be strong once again.
“I think the amount of depth and the amount of
guys that get out on the mound and make pitches and get outs is
something that is going to separate us from a lot of the other
teams in the country,” Zimmer said. “We just have 10 to 12 guys
that can get up on the mound and compete at this level.
The Dons will be young this season. They are
mostly freshman and junior-oriented and getting the freshmen up
to speed on what they want to do is something both Zimmer and
Giarratano stressed. There is unfinished business and the Dons
look to push farther into the postseason.
“We’ve got to go out and put money in the bank
and earn some W’s and get some respect,” Giarratano said. “We
are not going to sneak up on anyone any more. We are not the
underdog everyone thought we were for the last eight years. We
are going to have to play better then we have.”