TAMPA – The University of South Florida baseball team picked up an 8-5 victory over in-state opponent UCF Tuesday night thanks in part to a two-run homerun by freshman Sam Mende.
“Coach told me to sit and wait for the slider so that’s what I did,” said Mende. "My defense has been there but my offense had been struggling. This game is going to help our team turn the corner for the season."
Clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh, Mende sent a towering homerun over the left-field wall to give the Bulls a three-run lead that they would not squander.
Mende went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI.
“He is one of the guys that was struggling with runners in scoring position, but he is a talented player," said head coach Lelo Prado. "He is going to be a superstar in this league."
The Bulls also had another three-hit performance out of Jonathan Koscso, his second of the year, as USF held on to win a game that went back-and-forth for eight innings.
Junior Andrew Salgueiro earned the first win of his USF career and classmate Shawn Sanford picked up his 23rd career save in the ninth. Salgueiro allowed only one run from one hit in his 3.0 innings on the hill.
“We did the things that we had to do," added Prado. "We came out and played the game the right way. We played solid defense, and got great pitching when we needed it. We answered back every time they scored. That was the key to the game.”
The Bulls got things started in the bottom of the third with a triple to deep right centerfield by junior second baseman Peter Brotons. Brotons, who scored two runs on the night, then scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by senior Mike Consolmagno.
UCF responded in the top half of the inning when Shane Brown got hit by a pitch and later scored on a single to left by Brandon Romans. Romans then scored when sophomore centerfielder Ryan Lockwood lost track of a ball hit to the warning track in deep centerfield off the bat of Evan Stobbs.
A big bottom of the fifth gave the Bulls back the lead.
Mende singled to start things off for USF, and a walk to Daniel Rockhold followed by Brotons getting plunked by a pitch loaded the bases. After a fly out by Consolmagno, Lockwood singled in two runs to give the Bulls a 4-2 lead.
In the top of the sixth, the Knights got a leadoff double from Brown. Chris Duffy then singled to right to end Teddy Kaufman’s night. The USF starter went 5.0 innings, struck out three and allowed three earned runs on five hits.
“He pitched five good innings. We tried to stretch him out to six innings, though. For his first start, he did a great job,” said Prado.
Kaufman was replaced in the top of the sixth by Andrew Salgueiro, who forced a pair of flyouts and a groundball, which scored two, but got the Bulls out of the inning.
The Bulls began the bottom of the inning with back-to-back singles by sophomore Junior Carlin and Mende. With two on, sophomore Stephen Hunt came in to pinch-hit for Rockhold, and he singled through the right side to score Carlin and give the Bulls a 5-4 lead heading to the seventh inning.
A single by catcher Beau Taylor tied the game for the Knights, but the Bulls broke things open with three runs in the bottom of the seventh. A pair of singles by Koscso and Rey got it started for the Bulls, with Koscso then scoring on a suicide squeeze by Carlin.
That brought up Mende, who already had two hits on the game. The freshman smacked a towering shot down the left-field line for a two-run home run to put the Bulls up 8-5.
Salgueiro, who pitched 3.0 innings of relief allowed one run and one hit, was able to get out of a jam in the top of the eighth after surrendering a pair of walks. Shawn Sanford then came in to close in the ninth.
Sanford struck out Beau Taylor for out number one and got a ground ball to second off the bat of pinch-hitter Austin Smith for the second out. Sanford completed a perfect ninth with a ground ball to shortstop by Stephen Branca to pick up his first save of the season.
“Shawn has done a good job for us. He is really throwing the ball well, and that is what I like to see. I think Lazer [Collazo] did the right thing putting him in the closer role, and we feel good with him in the ninth,” said Prado.
The Bulls improved to 6-5 on the season heading into the game at UCF on Wednesday and the Bulls Baseball Classic this weekend, where they will take on Eastern Illinois, Oklahoma and Bethune-Cookman.