Rob Bridenstine

USF loses a heartbreaker to Gators

The USF Bulls (42-18) fell in their second game of the 2017 NCAA Tournament to the Florida Gators (44-16), giving up four runs in the 12th inning losing by a score of 5-1.

Redshirt freshman Shane McClanahan started the game on the mound for the Bulls. McClanahan threw two innings before a 38 minute rain delay sidelined him for the remainder of the game.

Head coach Mark Kingston said as he warmed up he didn’t feel right, so he didn’t want to risk an injury to the freshman, so he opted to throw it to the bullpen early.

“The starter was only able to go two innings,” Kingston said. “Shane just got a little stiff there so we wanted to err on the side of protecting him.”

After the delay, Kingston and pitching coach Billy Mohl opted to send senior Ryan Valdes to the mound. Valdes held his own against the Gators, only allowing 3 hits and one run over three innings.

Florida opened the scoring in the fourth inning when catcher Mike Rivera hit a single to score first baseman JJ Schwartz from second.

The Bulls tied the game back up in the fifth inning when Joe Genord squeaked home from second on a Duke Stunkel RBI single, as the left fielders throw sailed over the cutoff man.

The game was a pitcher’s duel, heading into extra innings still tied at one run each. Valdes said he knew it would be a battle against a team like UF.

“We knew it was going to be a dog fight… a heavy weight battle,” Valdes said. “That’s what kind of outing it was, it showed that you got to look out for USF.”

Joe Cavallaro followed Valdes out of the bullpen, throwing 3 innings and not allowing a run. Cavallaro bridged the gap to get the ball to Andrew Perez.

 Kingston said he thought the pitching performance the whole night was fantastic.

“What the pitchers that came in after [McClanahan] did was remarkable,” Kingston said.

USF had many opportunities to score throughout the night, but were unable to capitalize and never saw the lead during the 4 hour and 58 minute contest. In total, the Bulls stranded 12 men by the end of the night.

“We were one hit short at the end of the day,” Kingston said. “We had four or five chances to get one hit and we just didn’t get it.”

In the 12th inning, Perez gave up a single to Christian Hicks who exited the game for Blake Reese to pinch run. Perez attempted a pick off move that got away from Genord, allowing Reese to advance to 3rd. Genord tried to throw Reese out but air mailed the throw, allowing Reese to score.

“It was a pick play, I threw it to him [Genord] and I guess he just wasn’t ready,” Perez said. “ You can sweat over it but at the end of the day you just got to compose yourself and get after the next guy.”

After the two errant throws, the wheels came off, allowing the Gators to score three more runs before the inning ended. USF tried to fight back in the bottom half of the inning, but were retired after only getting one man on base.

Because of the loss, USF has to play Bethune-Cookman in a rematch of Friday’s game, which the Bulls won 9-1. It’s a quick turnaround, first pitch will be roughly 12 hours after the final pitch of this game.

“Kids played their hearts out,” Kingston said. “I have nothing but respect for what they showed tonight.”

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