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USF gears up to host St. Mary's in Benedetti

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Hoping to ride the hot bat of junior third baseman Stephen Yarrow, USF will break into the heart of its West Coast Conference schedule with a matchup against Bay Area rival St. Mary’s in the Dante Benedetti Classic Game at AT&T Park today.

Yarrow has a conference-high 12 home runs and 35 RBIs to go along with a .342 batting average.

“[Yarrow] has been a big part of our offense and he’s carried us throughout the year,” said USF coach Nino Giarratano. “When he’s been out of the lineup with a foot injury or when people have been able to get him out, we’ve had trouble.”

Yarrow also leads the WCC in slugging percentage (.766) and is second in total bases (85).

“I’m seeing the ball pretty good,” Yarrow said. “I’m trying to do as much as possible for the team and it’s a lot easier to hit when guys around you are hitting so well.”

Three other Dons are hitting above .300, including freshman outfielder Jared Denham (.374, fourth in WCC), senior catcher Ryan Lipkin (.342) and senior shortstop Derek Poppert (.315).

Poppert also leads the WCC in doubles and is seventh in hits.

The Dons (17-15, 1-1 WCC) have scored 20 runs twice this year (against Gonzaga and BYU) and put up 18 runs against UC Davis on Tuesday, but have been inconsistent at the plate at times.

“At times we’re scoring a lot of runs, but other times we’re not scoring enough,” Giarratano said. “Hopefully we can spread out our offense a little bit.”

After the Benedetti Classic, the Dons will enter a nine-game road trip, including matchups against WCC conference foes St. Mary’s and Loyola Marymount and nonconference games against New Mexico and Arizona State.

Giarratano sees balance as the key to the remainder of the season.

“We have to pitch well and be able to play defense, and we’ve proven we can do that,” Giarratano said. “Now we have to opportunity to put up runs and hopefully we can scratch out enough.”

The Dons’ game in the Benedetti Classic will follow the annual Bruce Mahoney Game between St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart.

The longtime San Francisco high school rivals will play for the Bruce Mahoney trophy, which is awarded to the school that wins the best-of-three series in baseball, basketball and football.