Taylor Jenkins

USF sweeps Toledo for 9th straight win

USF relinquished their early lead, but showed depth in the bullpen and hit great with runners in scoring position to come back and beat Toledo on Sunday.

The University of South Florida hosted the University of Toledo Rockets for the final game of their weekend series on Sunday, finishing the Bulls’ weekend sweep with a 6-3 victory.

USF opened up the scoring with two runs in the second inning. The Bulls got the inning started after Duke Stunkel Jr. drove a single up the middle and worked his way around to third, coming in on a single from Garrett Zech. Zech scored on a deep RBI double from Kevin Merrell.

“It was big, but we need more. We’re more than capable of doing that throughout the lineup and we just need to see more of that,” said head coach Mark Kingston. “[Merrell and Zech] got the big hits today. We had a lot of opportunities to really put that game away and we just kept them in the game. We left a lot of guys on base and that’s just something we need to keep improving on.”

Peter Strzelecki got another Sunday start for the Bulls and pitched well through two, but had a bit of trouble keeping his control. A kicked ball and a few baserunners turned into three runs coming across in the third for Toledo, squandering the Bulls’ early lead. Strzelecki escaped the inning and worked his way through two outs in the fourth before getting the hook. Strzelecki finished his day with just one earned run on four hits and four walks.

“Pitching carried us again today. I don’t think it was our best day pitching wise, but it was good enough. When you don’t have your best day and you still only give up three runs on a day you make four errors... I think that speaks volumes to the quality of our pitching right now,” said Kingston. “It wasn’t our best day all the way around, four errors, which is almost as many as we’ve made the entire year, so I’ll just chalk that up to a little bit of a fluke. I told the guys that when you’re a good team you can have some days where you don’t play your best, you’re a little more sloppy than normal, and you still find a way to win. That’s what we did today.”

USF fired back in the fourth, however, with three runs of their own. Stunkel led off the rally with a walk, and again used his speed to get around to third. Zech came back for more offensive production, doubling down the left field line and tacking on another RBI. Zech then scored on a single from Merrell, and Merrell crossed the plate on a single from Coco Montes.

Noah Yager entered in relief for the Bulls and sat down the final Toledo batter in the fourth, allowing just one hit over his inning and a third. Following Yager, the Bulls were able to get two scoreless innings from Michael Farley and a six out save from closer Andrew Perez.

“We didn’t have our best game today, but that’s the sign of a good team when you can come out and not have your best stuff and still get the win,” said Merrell. “You’ve got to have each other’s back. The pitching’s not always going to be perfect, the hitting’s not always going to be perfect, so we’ve got to work together.”

With yet another sweep this weekend, USF moves to 10-1 on the season. They’ll look to improve on an already stellar start with mid-week games against Jacksonville and Villanova on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Both games will be played at USF and start at 6:30 p.m.

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