Tampa Bay Sports Day

Bulls’ Ninth Inning Rally Fuels 4-2 Conference Tournament Win

CLEARWATER, Fla.  – The seventh seeded University of South Florida baseball team (24-31) utilized two bases loaded, ninth inning walks to top the No. 2 seeded East Carolina Pirates 4-2 in the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Wednesday afternoon.

With the victory, USF has moved into the conference tournament winner’s bracket and advances to the Americanto play UConn (34-22) on Thursday night at 7 p.m.  Redshirt junior right-hander Tommy Eveld will make his first start of the season for USF.

“It feels good to win, it’s one of the four that you need to win (the conference tournament) this week,” said USF head baseball coach Mark Kingston. “We found a way to get two runs in the ninth and get the lead back. I thought it was encouraging to see guys accept their roles, that we flipped this week, to try and spark things a little bit.”

Tied at two, the Bulls turned five walks in the top of the ninth inning into a pair of runs, snapping a 2-2 tie and earning the win in the team’s 2016 conference tournament opener.

East Carolina (34-20-1) threatened first with a two-out single and stolen base in the opening frame but pitcher Brandon Lawson recorded a strikeout to end the threat. Lawson struck out three of the four batters he faced in the first.

The Bulls initial rally came in the third. Infielders Coco Montes and Kevin Merrell  worked two-out singles only to see Pirates pitcher Evan Kruczynski post a strikeout to keep the game scoreless.

The USF defense then took over from there. Catcher Joe Genord  threw out two would-be base stealers in the third and sixth innings. The Bulls also threw out Charlie Yorgen looking to stretch a fourth leadoff double into a triple, and got Yorgen again in the sixth when his single turned into a rundown for out number one.

The game remained scoreless until the seventh when infielder David Villar reached on leadoff double and scored on a Duke Stunkel Jr. sacrifice fly. Then later in the inning, Merrell plated outfielder Cameron Montgomery  with a base hit up the middle for the two-run advantage.

ECU then tied the game in the bottom of the seventh on a Kurt Morgan two-run double to left. Even at two, Lawson had a runner at third with two outs but induced a popup to keep the game tied.

Still deadlocked at two, USF turned to reliever Joe Cavallaro  for the bottom of the eighth. ECU capitalized on a fielding error to load the bases with one out but the sophomore right-hander struck out Eric Tyler and got Bryce Harmon to fly out to end the inning.

The Bulls then loaded the bases in the ninth inning and plated two runs on bases loaded walks to outfielder Luke Maglich and Genord to go ahead 4-2.

Leading by two, USF brought in pitcher Phoenix Sanders. ECU built a two-out rally, putting the go-ahead run at the plate but Sanders struck out Dwanya Williams-Sutton to preserve the victory.

Lawson fired 7.0 innings, yielding just two runs on seven hits in the no decision. He also struck out eight in the game. Cavallaro (6-3) earns the win with a scoreless eighth inning and Sanders posted his first career save. The Bulls used all three of their weekend starters to limit the Pirates to just two runs on eight hits.

Seven of the Bulls starters notched at least one hit each. Merrell tallied two hits on the day for his 13th multi-hit game of the year.

Luke Borders  advanced his hit streak and on-base streak to seven with a sixth inning single.