ORLANDO, FLA., MAY 18, 2017 – The University of South Florida baseball team scored four runs in the top of the 11th to take game one of this weekend's War on I-4 series at UCF, 7-4.
The Bulls (40-13, 14-8 The American) have sole possession of first place in The American by virtue of Houston's loss to Cincy. USF can clinch the regular-season title with a win tomorrow and a loss by UConn.
USF reached the 40-win mark for the first time since 1996.
The Bulls set the program record for strikeouts in a single season their third strikeout of the game. They sit at 556 on the year.
The Bulls are now 5-2 in extra innings this season and have defeated the Knights (36-18, 13-9 The American) four-straight times this year.
All seven of USF's runs were scored with two outs.
A strong opening two innings from the both pitchers was halted momentarily in the third when the Knights scored twice with two outs on a double from Kyle Marsh.
The Bulls tied the contest with a Duke Stunkel Jr. (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) homer to left with a man at second in the top of the eighth.
David Villar (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) led off the top of the ninth with a walk, then three batters later Coco Montes (Miami) drove him home from second with a single to give USF its first lead, 3-2.
But the Knights led off the bottom half with a homer to right to tie the game. As the game moved into the 11th, USF took advantage of pitches out of the zone and a run was walked in with the bases loaded to make it 4-3.
With two outs, junior Kevin Merrell (Odessa, Fla.) had a bases clearing double to make it 7-3. Joe Cavallaro (Venice, Fla.) closed the door in the bottom half.
Merrell went 3-for-6 with a run and three RBI.
Stunkel Jr. went 2-for-5, as the homer was his first of the year.
The bottom five in the USF lineup all scored a run.
Senior Phoenix Sanders (Gainesville, Fla.) had another quality outing, going 7.0 innings allowing six hits and the two runs in the third. He struck out four.
Cavallaro was booked for two runs on two hits, but struck out seven in 3.1 innings and picked up his fifth win of the year.
The Bulls try to make it a perfect 5-0 against UCF and clinch the regular-season crown in game two of this weekend's series, Friday at 6:30 p.m.
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.