It would seem that the Bulls have a flair for the dramatics; rallying late in three of their six wins so far this season.
Coming into Saturday, the Bulls knew that it would be a long day on the diamond with their first double header since being swept by the Louisville Cardinals in May 2014. This time however, the Bulls find themselves in a position to sweep the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks. USF can send the RedHawks back home winless in 2017 after winning both games —7-2 and 3-2 respectively— on Saturday and the series opener on Friday night.
Redshirt freshman pitcher Shane McClanahan started the first game on Saturday, improving off of his collegiate debut by extending his outing to the sixth inning. McClanahan shined in his second outing, giving up only one hit and two walks without surrendering any run in his six innings of work.
The young pitcher was able to keep opposing batters on their heels with a good mixture of velocity, never dipping below 90 mph with his heat, and utilized a changeup that dropped off in low 80s. McClanahan struck out another nine batters, bringing his total to 18 on the season, but faced 21 batters compared to the 14 he faced against the Iowa Hawkeyes last week.
The USF bats backed up McClanahan, collecting 11 hits and seven runs on the day. The Bulls hitters were able to force the RedHawks to pull from their bullpen early, tagging Miami’s starter, Zach Spears for four hits, four walks and four runs on 86 pitches, in only 3.1 innings pitched.
Both junior shortstop Kevin Merrell and sophomore outfielder Garrett Zech were able to get on base with two hits and a walk each. Two of the Bulls’ speediest base runners were able to keep the Miami pitchers on edge, with Merrell inciting a run producing balk, collecting five runs between the two of them.
With the offense putting pressure on the RedHawks pitching staff, USF head coach Mark Kingston only had reach to his bullpen once; bringing in senior pitcher Mark Farley (3.0 IP, 1K, 2BB, 1ER) in relief for McClanahan. USF was able to preserve its bullpen arms for the remainder of the series.
The second game of the day ran quickly as USF pitcher D.J. Roberts found himself in a pitching duel in his starting debut. Roberts pitched 6.2 innings, giving up two runs on five hits while striking out six in his first time starting in the NCAA.
“I was nervous,” said Roberts after the game. “First collegiate start, but throughout the game I kept myself calm and felt like I had it. Overall I think it was a pretty good outing. Those two runs were on me, but overall I think we did a good job as a team.”
Roberts did have as much support in the second game of the day as the Bulls only recorded three hits until the ninth inning. Junior pitcher Joe Cavallaro pitched in 1.1 innings of relief, walking one and surrendering a single base hit, while striking out four.
Sophomore closer Andrew Perez pitched a perfect inning for the Bulls, striking out two batters and picked up the win.
The RedHawks starter, senior Brad Schwartz pitched a near perfect 8.2 innings on 136 pitches; striking out 10 USF batters and surrendering only two hits and two walks before the ninth.
“His stuff was good,” said Kingston after the second game. “That fastball he spotted anywhere he wanted. The breaking ball was good enough to keep us off balance; he really competed. He knows how to pitch, there’s no doubt about it.”
However, the whole game can be summed up to just one pitch; Schwartz’s last pitch. Walking third baseman David Villar in the bottom of the ninth with one out, and quickly disposing of freshman Anthony Gonnella for the second out, it appeared as if Schwartz would be able to pitch the complete game.
Sophomore outfielder Chris Chatfield was at the plate for the Bulls’ last out and quickly found himself in an unfavorable count after fouling off the first two offerings from Schwartz, but found what he was looking for in pitch 136. Chatfield drove the ball deep past the right-center wall for the game-tying homerun.
“The guys were very excited, obviously,” said Kingston. “We didn’t have to celebrate in game two, kept us so off balance and we only had three hits going into that inning. When that ball was elevated, it was a no-doubter off the bat, it was electrifying in the dugout. Then we got a guy on base, [Duke] Stunkel with the big at bat there getting to second base. Then Andres [Leal] with the big at bat.”
“We didn’t do much with the first 26 outs of the game, but then we made it hard to get that 27th. That’s why you have to preach that all the time.”