USF redshirt freshman Nick Cardieri was forced to enter Tuesday’s game against Stetson after senior Mike Macaluso injured his leg running to first on a single in the bottom of the seventh inning. Cardieri entered to pinch run for Macaluso and stayed in the game at second base.
It was only fitting seven innings later that Cardieri, who replaced a player who connected on his first home run of the season, connected on his first home run of the season — a two-run, two-out, walk-off blast over the right-center-field wall — to give the Bulls a 10-8 victory in 14 innings against the Hatters at Red McEwen Field.
“It hasn’t’ hit me yet,” Cardieri said. “I don’t know what happened. I was just trying to hit the ball hard. They had been pitching me in all night, and I was looking for that and I got it again.”
It might not have hit USF coach Eddie Cardieri, father of the player that hit the game-winning blast yet either.
“He struck out twice before and popped up. He wasn’t having a good night, but he delivered,” the coach said. “And I’m proud of him as a player, and not having anything to do with the fact that he’s my son.
“I’m very proud of the fact that (we) were able to pull it out because that was a great win,” the coach said. “It was a tough game for Stetson to lose, but a great game for us to win.
The Bulls squandered a few chances in extra innings to end the game. In the 11th inning, USF had runners on corners with two outs, but leftfielder Travis Brown flied out to left to end the inning.
Then in the 13th, after Bryan Hierlmeier pushed a potential walk-off home run just outside the right-field foul pole, Myron Leslie lined a one-out single and stole second to give the Bulls a runner in scoring position. Stetson then intentionally walked Brian Baisley to get back to Brown.
Leslie eventually stole third to give USF runners at the corners with two outs again, but Stetson pitcher Ryan Dixon struck out Brown to end the inning.
Stetson held an early 4-0 advantage after scoring a pair of runs in the first and third innings, but the Bulls cut their deficit in half in the bottom of the third when Mike Macaluso blasted a two-run home run, his first of the season.
The Bulls added another run in the fifth when Jeremy Bellotti scored on a wild pitch and trailed 4-3.
USF took its first lead of the game with a five-run seventh inning. Devin Ivany lined an RBI single, and Brian Baisley added an RBI double. Both Ivany and Baisley later scored on wild pitches, and Matt McHargue capped the inning with a solo home run, his team-leading ninth of the season and his fourth in the last two games, giving the Bulls an 8-5 lead.
However, Stetson responded with a pair of runs in the eighth, and the Hatters pushed across the tying run in the ninth, sending the game into extra innings.