By KY-SHON HEPBURN
Special to GoUSFBulls.com
TAMPA - The Bulls' power surge on offense led to a doubleheader sweep of Savannah State on Saturday night.
USF defeated Savannah State, 14-4 and 15-4, before a crowd of 971 at the USF Baseball Stadium in the start of the three-game series.
"I think our team is believing in our defense," said head coach Lelo Prado. "We're a better defensive club and we're playing better."
Daniel Rockhold got things going with a solo homerun to left centerfield to give the Bulls a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning of Saturday's opener.
"Our guys really swung the bats pretty good," said Prado.
The Bulls got their bats going again in the third inning.
Luis Llerena started things off with a leadoff single, Chad Taylor followed with a single and Todd Brazeal hit an RBI double. Rockhold hit his second home run of the game, and Andrew Longley hit his second home run of the year to make the score 6-0.
Savannah State scored its first run in the fourth inning. Matthew Oglesby reached on an error, Todd Hagen and Chris Arnold singled, and Julius Green got an RBI on a sacrifice fly to make the score 6-1.
James Ramsay hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to increase the Bulls lead to 7-1.
Jimmy Falla and Llerena hit back-to-back doubles to continue the hot hitting for the Bulls. Mendez, Taylor, Brazeal and Rockhold followed with RBI singles and Falla walked with the bases loaded to extend the Bulls lead to 12-1 in the sixth inning.
Austin Adams came in to relieve starting pitcher Derrick Stultz in the top of the seventh inning. Stultz (2-0) pitched six innings and allowed only one run on three hits.
"Stultz was great the first game and Adams was outstanding," said Prado.
The Tigers cut into the Bulls lead in the top of the eighth inning with a double by Hagen followed by an RBI single by McCrary to make the score 12-2.
The Bulls scored two runs on no hits in the bottom of the eighth inning, increasing their lead to 14-2.
Uriah Virgo walked to start the ninth inning and Dychal Bowles hit a two-run homer. Todd Hagen struck out to end the threat from the Tigers as the Bulls won the first game of the doubleheader, 14-4, with 16 hits and 11 RBI.
Savannah State got things going first in the second game of the doubleheader. Julius Green was hit by a pitch, Kevin Herlihy and Michael McHugh followed with singles and Bowels singled with the bases loaded to bring home two runs and give the Tigers an early 2-0 lead in the second inning.
USF answered in the bottom of the third inning. Blake Sydeski hit a single, Kyle Teaf reached on a fielder's choice and then stole second base and Llerena posted a double. Mendez was next with an RBI single, Chad Taylor followed with a sac fly to score Teaf and Mendez scored on an error by the Tigers to give the Bulls a 3-2 lead.
Rockhold hit a double to lead things off in the fourth, Buddy Putnam and Teaf walked and Llerena reached on a fielder's choice and picked up an RBI to make the score 4-2.
Taylor and Brazeal both walked in the fifth inning and Taylor moved to third on a passed ball, then scored on a wild pitch to increase the lead to 5-2.
Savannah State got a big hit from Green in the top of the sixth inning when he hit a solo home run to left field to cut into the Bulls lead 5-3.
The Bulls added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Teaf and Llerena notched back-to-back doubles and Llerena picked up an RBI. Mendez sacrificed to move Llerena over to third, but an error allowed Llerena to score and allowed Mendez to reach second. Mendez advanced to third base on a wild pitch, and Ramsay grounded out but picked up an RBI to make the score 7-3.
Junior transfer Steven Leasure relieved starting pitcher Joey Lovecchio in the seventh inning. Lovecchio (2-0) pitched six innings allowing three runs on eight hits.
"Lovecchio battled," said Prado.
Bowles singled to center field, Darien Campbell singled to right field and Oglesby grounded out, but not before picking up an RBI making the score 8-4 in the seventh inning.
The Bulls scored seven runs on three hits in the eighth inning to close the door on the Tigers.
Taylor singled then stole second base and Ramsay followed with a single moving Taylor to third base and then Ramsay stole second base. Rockhold was hit by a pitch, Taylor scored on a wild pitch, Putnam picked up an RBI on a ground out, and Sydeski hit an RBI single. Teaf reached on an error, Llerena walked to load the bases, and Mendez hit a grand slam to take a commanding 15-4 lead.
"I'm happy with the performance, but we gotta keep it rolling," said Prado.
USF will try to do just that on Sunday at noon, when the Bulls and Savannah State finish off the three-game series at the USF Baseball Stadium.