Coach Piraro talks about the weekend series

San Jose State baseball coach Sam Piraro's Spartans battled back from an 0-2 series deficit against defending National Champ Fresno State to even the weekend series, the final game in thrilling fashion. SJSU also honored their long-time head coach. Piraro talks about the weekend, and his award for 700 wins as a head coach.

San Jose State was in the midst of an epic pitchers duel on Friday night when, with one out in the top of the ninth, SJSU head coach Sam Piraro made his way to the mound to check on his starting pitcher David Berner. After a brief conversation with his senior hurler, Piraro quickly turned toward the bullpen in left field and pointed - the night was over for Berner.

Berner said after the game that he was dehydrated and dizzy. He simply told the coach that he was done and Piraro made the move. Piraro mentioned that Berner had a sore arm. Whatever the reason, the senior couldn't continue and Piraro made a coaching decision. "It wasn't a tough decision," he said. "Do you think I wanted to take him out? I didn't, but I have to look out for the health of my players. I don't think it was a bad decision."

Senior right-hander Anthony Vega came in and promptly surrendered the winning run. "We didn't get it done," Piraro said. "That's where the decision could be questioned. Not because I took Berner out, but perhaps who went into the game."

On Saturday, it looked as though the Spartans were still suffering the effects of what must have been an emotionally draining loss the night before. In the 8-2 loss in the first game of the days doubleheader, junior Max Peterson gave up seven runs, and it looked as though the Spartans would be embarassed by their arch-rival. However, as it is always darkest before the dawn, the San Jose State light began to shine when senior right-hander Ryan Shopshire threw a magnificent 15-strikeout gem in the second game as the Spartans entered the win column with a 2-0 victory. "Shopshire gave us a tremendous lift," Piraro said. "He saved the series for us."

San Jose State took the momentum of Saturday night's win into the first inning of Sunday's series finale. After FSU went up 1-0 in their half of the first, the Spartans immediately responded with two of their own in the bottom of the first. FSU responded by scoring three runs in the top of the third, forcing starter Luke Mazzanti out of the game. In came senior Tyler Heil, who began the season as an infielder. His move the pitcher came in the series against Hawai'i three weeks earlier. Since he was in only his fifth game as a pitcher, Piraro was unsure how his right-hander would respond. "We didn't know how far he could go," Piraro said. "When you've never pitched the routine itself takes a lot out of you, but he got stronger as he went on."

As it turned out Heil completed the game, and shut down the Fresno State attack. A home run by senior John Shaffer in the bottom of the seventh cut the Bulldogs' lead to 5-3. But it was the bottom of the ninth that lit the fireworks. Freshman John Silver had a career at-bat, fouling off five pitches before connecting on a sacrifice fly that scored the tying run, "That was a really gutsy at=bat because (FSU pitcher Holden Sprague) made every pitch in the book that he had," Piraro said. (Silver's) blood should be checked, he doesn't get nervous."

Senior Kyle Bellows went on to be the hero when he smacked an 0-2 pitch into right-center field, allowing freshman Michael Reiling to score the winning run all the way from first base. "Bellows had to fight like hell," Piraro said. "He'd been struggling. Any time you there's a come-from-behind win it's good for our team."

Piraro added that any sacrifice hits were going to be made swinging the bat. "We didn't bunt the ball," he said. "I had made my mind up that I was going to let them win the game swinging the bat and they did a good job."

Before Saturday's opening game of the doubleheader, Piraro was presented a plaque commemorating his 700 wins as head coach by University President Jon Whitmore and Athletic Director Tom Bowen. Piraro said he was a bit embarrassed by all the hoopla. "I'm not that big on those things," he said. "It certainly is an honor and I appreciate being recognized."

There is one mark that Piraro said he will relish if and when the time comes. "I'm getting close to 1000 wins overall as a coach," he said. "I think that is a big milestone. That's a sign of longevity, that you've been doing this a long time."




Don Hoekwater is the Publisher of Inside Sparta. You may contact Don with any questions, comments, or tips at publisher@insidesparta.com

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