The USF Bulls did it again; just a day after beating rival UCF 5-4 in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 11th, the Bulls rallied to snatch a win away from the Knights.
USF took an early lead in the second inning after sophomore Duke Stunkel lead the inning off with a single to centerfield between the UCF shortstop and second baseman. Stunkel advanced to second, and eventually third, after a David Villar single and Tyler Dietrich SAC bunt. After a Chris Chatfield fly ball to left field, Stunkel tagged up at third and made his way to the plate.
The Bulls scored only the one run in the second, leaving two runners on base; a trend that continued throughout the night, finishing the game with 10 runners left on.
“Throughout the game they did a better job than we did on the little things,” said head coach Mark Kingston. “But we didn’t panic; the kids stuck together.”
Redshirt freshman Shane McClanahan took the mound for the Bulls and started the night off by striking out seven of the first 10 batters he faced. McClanahan managed to top out at 95 mph, but saw a loss in command and control in the fifth inning, surrendering three runs on two walks, a single and double. McClanahan finished his night giving up four runs on three hits and three walks, with nine strikeouts in five innings pitched.
After the Knights took a 4-1 lead in the fifth, the Bulls managed to cut the deficit to just one t ain the same bottom of the same inning. Junior Coco Montes, who went 4-5 on the night, lead the inning off with a single, and was driven in on a hard hit Joe Genord single to center after he advanced to third on a Luke Borders double. Borders was able to cross the plate after the UCF left fielder hesitated to throw the ball on a Stunkel fly ball.
Three innings later, the Knights tacked on another run after a throwing error by USF shortstop Kevin Merrell.
Things became heated on the field during the home half of the eighth after a Montes single scored Garrett Zech and Merrell made an aggressive run to the plate. Merrell was called out at the plate after he collided with the UCF catcher in an attempt to tie the game. Both benches cleared as the Knights’ catcher was slow to get up, but nothing more than a few words were exchanged before cooler heads prevailed.
The bottom of the ninth saw the Bulls take advantage of a pitching and defensive breakdown by the Knights. Borders lead the inning off with a base-on-balls, followed by a single by Genord that bounced between the UCF pitcher and catcher. Cameron Montgomery came in to pinch run for Genord as Stunkel threw down a SAC bunt that moved both runners into scoring position.
With both runners in scoring position, UCF decided to intentionally walk Villar, in an attempt to induce the double play against the next batter. That’s when Kingston made the decision to pinch hit Andres Leal for Dietrich. Leal hit the ball to the UCF shortstop, who flipped the ball to second base before attempting to turn the double play. The throw from second glanced off the first baseman’s glove, deflecting the ball about 15 feet into the air, making Leal safe at first and bringing the game tying and winning runs.
“We got some really good bats at the end,” said Kingston after the game. “It’s a little unfortunate that [Andres] hit the ball to shortstop, but he went hard and forced the tough play and turned it into two runs.”
After two big wins against their rivals, the Bulls will look to get the sweep against UCF on Sunday.
“Just ask them ‘Are you satisfied or do you want to come out and go again tomorrow,’” said Kingston. “There’s no doubt that they want to come out and play really well again tomorrow.”
USF will take the field against UCF to finish the series sweep in this edition of the War on I-4 at 2:00 P.M. on Sunday.