TAMPA, APRIL 9, 2017 – After falling behind 4-2 in the top of the fifth, the University of South Florida baseball team responded with four runs in the bottom half to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish, as it swept UCF in the first War on I-4 series of the season with Sunday’s 7-5 win.
Junior Kevin Merrell (Odessa, Fla.) led off the game with a solo shot to right and it looked as if the Bulls (27-5, 4-2 American) would have a nice afternoon in front of the home crowd.
But the Knights (23-10, 2-4 American) had no intention of going down easy, as they took a 2-1 lead with a two-out single to score men in scoring position in the top half of the third. The two sides exchanged runs in the fourth, then Rylan Thomas homered to right field in the fifth to make it 4-2.
But the USF bats came alive in the bottom half. Senior Luke Borders (Winter Haven, Fla.) led off with triple to right, then sophomore Joe Genord (Lake Worth, Fla.) drove him home with a double to left center. Three batters later, redshirt-junior Andres Leal (Tampa) singled to score Genord, then sophomore Cameron Montgomery (Windermere, Fla.) doubled to left, scoring two. Classmate Garrett Zech (Naples, Fla.) singled to bring home Montgomery, completing the four-run inning.
Each side plated one more across the next two innings, but junior reliever Joe Cavallaro (Venice, Fla.) was lights out to close the door and pick up a 3 1/3 inning save.
· Three Bulls had three-hit outings. Zech went 3-for-4 with a run and a RBI, Merrell went 3-for-5 with a run and two RBI and Genord went 3-for-5 with a run and a RBI.
· In total, six USF hitters had multi-hit days, with Leal going 2-for-4 with two runs and a RBI, Borders going 2-for-5 with a run scored and junior Duke Stunkel Jr. (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) going 2-for-5.
· Cavallaro gave up just three hits in the 3.1 innings he pitched while striking out six.
· The 16 hits matched a season high for the Bulls. It marks the 19th time the Bulls clubbed double-digit hits and the 12th time the team recorded at least 13 hits this year.
· The Bulls are now 68-59 against UCF all time and 42-25 in Tampa.
· The USF sweep marks the first against an AAC opponent at home since March 27-29 of 2015, when the Bulls defeated Cincinnati in three straight. It was USF's first sweep in Tampa over the Knights since 1993 (two games) and the first series sweep of at least three games in Tampa since 1985.
· USF culminated the weekend with the third annual Cuts Vs. Cancer ceremony. The players and coaching staff shaved their heads after the game and together raised over $11,000 for the Vs. Cancer Foundation, supporting the fight against childhood cancer.
The Bulls head to Stetson for a midweek tilt on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. before returning home for three games against Cincy beginning Thursday.
Thoughts from coach Kingston and Joe Cavallaro on the sweep.
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 win over FSU was part of the best start in program history thanks to a 19-game winning streak, the second-longest in USF Baseball records.
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.