TAMPA- Jumping out to an early three-run lead, a five run third inning by West Virginia proved to be to much for the University of South Florida baseball team (10-14, 1-2) to overcome. The Bulls couldn't rally past WVU in the rubber match of a three-game set Sunday afternoon at the USF Baseball Stadium, falling 7-6.
The Bulls put the tying run on second base in the bottom of the ninth with one out but sophomore Alex Mendez struck out swinging and junior Sam Mende grounded out to third to end the game.
After a scoreless inning and a half, the Bulls opened the scoring for both teams in the bottom of the second.
Junior Todd Brazeal and sophomore Jimmy Falla reached base to start the inning and were then sacrificed up a base by freshman James Ramsay. Brazeal came into score on an RBI single by sophomore Chad Taylor and with two outs Peter Brotons picked up his first hit of the season to drive in Falla with a single to left.
West Virginia answered with five of their own in the top of the third off Bulls' starter freshman LHP Nick Gonzalez.
Gonzalez labored through 4.1 innings of work with shaky command, walking five batters and hitting two more while scattering five hits. The third inning, however, was the only inning the Mountaineers would score on the southpaw.
With one out, Mende responded in the bottom of the inning with a solo home run to left easily clearing both fences and landing on Elm street cutting the WVU advantage to 5-4.
West Virginia added to their lead with a run in the sixth and an unearned run in the seventh.
Seniors Kyle Eastham and Kevin Quackenbush were flawless in relief of Zach Pietrzyk, who pitched 2.2 innings after replacing Gonzalez. Each worked an inning to close out the eighth and ninth frames, respectively. Quackenbush struck out two batters in the ninth pushing his season total to 23 strikeouts in 14.1 innings this season and lowering his ERA to 0.63 on the season. He extended his scoreless stretch to 12.0 innings.
Mende continued his solid afternoon at the plate in the bottom of the seventh. Following a West Virginia error to extend the inning, Mende made the Mountaineers pay with a two-out, two run double to the corner in left scoring Koscso and Mendez.
The Bulls could not get any closer as they were retired in order in the third and left the tying run standing on second to end the game in the ninth.
Offensively, USF out hit West Virginia, 10-9, on the day. Brotons picked up his first two hits on the season while Ramsay went 2-for-4 with a run scored. With his fourth inning single, Ramsay snapped an 0-25 skid at the plate.
West Virginia starter Andy Berry (4-1) went 8.1 innings on the day throwing 132 pitches. He gave up six runs on 10 hits, striking out two. Gonzalez took the loss dropping his record to 1-2 on the season.
The Bulls will look to get back on track as they head to Jacksonville on Wednesday to take on North Florida before heading north to Philadelphia for a three game set against Villanova this next weekend.
Today's attendance was 1,347... The game was played in 2:27 minutes... Quackenbush has not given up a run in his last 11 appearances or a hit in his last seven outings... The homer for Mende is the 13th of his career... The series loss is the first time the Bulls have lost a BIG EAST opening series... USF is now 12-6 against WVU all-time and 6-3 in Tampa... Ramsay's triple in the sixth was the first of his career.