TAMPA, MARCH. 8, 2017 – For a second-straight night the University of South Florida baseball team clubbed 15 hits while the arms combined to allow just two hits, solidifying an 11th-consecutive win and the program’s best start to a season with an 8-1 victory over Villanova on Wednesday.
The Bulls (12-1) were sent down in order in the first, but quickly figured out Wildcat (1-10) starter Ryan Pfutzenreuter. After putting two men on in the second and not producing a run, sophomore Garrett Zech (Naples, Fla.) tripled to lead off the third. Junior Kevin Merrell (Odessa, Fla.) would only begin his monster day with a single to drive home Zech. A throwing error allowed Merrell to score with two outs, as the Bulls held a 2-0 edge heading into the fourth.
With two men on and no outs in the bottom of that fourth frame, Merrell dug into the batter’s box and took an 0-1 fastball high and deep over the right field fence onto the Bulls’ batting cage, making it 5-0. Just four pitches later, sophomore Coco Montes (Miami) drove a fastball over the left field fence to make it 6-0.
USF added one more in the frame, which turned out to be plenty of support for a pitching staff that was dominant once again. A perfect game was taken into the sixth inning and for a second time this year, the Bulls’ arms combined to allow fewer than three hits.
· Merrell matched his career high with four hits in five at bats. His two homers were a career-best, as he only had one career blast heading into the game.
· Merrell also scored three runs and drove in a career high five RBI.
· Zech went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, Montes clubbed two hits and sophomore Joe Genord (Lake Worth, Fla.) went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
· Freshman starter D.J. Roberts (Jacksonville) logged 6.0 innings in his second-straight start, allowed two hits and one run while fanning six.
· The bullpen hurled three 3.0 perfect innings.
· The Bulls are now on an 11-game winning streak, tied for the fifth-longest in program history. The 11-consecutive victories are the second-most in all of college baseball this year.
· The 12-1 start for USF is the best 13-game start in program history.
· Merrell and Montes became the first Bulls to club back-to-back homeruns since March 20 of last season.
· Merrell’s two blasts make him the first Bull to hit two bombs in one game since March 16 of last season. Teammate Chris Chatfield (Riverview, Fla.) was the man to do so against North Florida in 2016.
The Bulls will look to maintain momentum when they host Valparaiso for three games this weekend, with first pitch in the series set for Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Thoughts from coach Kingston and Kevin Merrell on the win.
About USF Baseball
The University of South Florida baseball team is one of the fastest rising programs in the country. Under the guidance of head coach Mark Kingston, the Bulls reached the NCAA Regionals in 2015 for the first time in 13 years and USF followed that success with a consensus Top 10 recruiting class. Five players from that recruiting class were everyday starters in 2016 including outfielder Chris Chatfield (Riverview, Fla.), who led the team in home runs, and catcher Joe Genord (Lake Worth, Fla.), who was named the 2016 PGCBL Player of the Year. The Bulls won series from two ranked teams in 2016 (No. 21 East Carolina, No. 25 Michigan State, began the 2017 season with a series win over Iowa and earned just it’s second win over a top-five team with a 4-2 victory against No. 3 Florida State on Feb. 21.
The USF Baseball program has won five conference titles and the Bulls have made 11 NCAA appearances. Follow the baseball team on social media (Twitter | Facebook | Instagram), visit GoUSFBulls.com for the most up-to-date information, and purchase tickets for upcoming games at USFBullsTix.com. For tickets, contact the USF Ticket Office at 1-800-Go-Bulls or by going online to USFBullsTix.com.