Bad luck was with the Bulls over the weekend.
It certainly seems that way following a three-game sweep by Illinois (3-3) after the Bulls (4-9) beat the Fighting Illini 4-2 on Feb. 25 at the Stetson Invitational.
The team lost 5-1 on Friday, 7-3 on Saturday and a bottom-of-the-ninth rally fell a run short Sunday as the team lost 7-6.
Junior Casey Hudspeth (1-2) pitched six innings, giving up seven hits and three runs Friday. Sophomore Daniel Thomas pitched four and two-thirds innings, giving up nine hits and seven runs Saturday. Sophomore Davis Bilardello went the longest over the weekend, pitching seven innings, only giving up two earned runs and striking out three Sunday.
Coach Eddie Cardieri said he was happy with how the Bulls outhit the Illini 11-10, even though Illinois outhit USF 33-24 over the weekend, but also said his players were “intense,” “willing to do anything” for a win, and “the dugout demeanor” was better than before.
“We’ve got some bad luck right now, but we hit the balls real hard today,” Cardieri said. “There was just always someone there to catch it.
“Our pitching ought to give us a chance to win, and I think our pitching has been nonexistent up until today. Davis did an awesome job today, as well as our offense, (which) really showed some signs of life and really came around.”
USF only had two leads over the weekend – Saturday in the first inning and Sunday in the sixth – while designated hitter Brad Karns went 4-for-4 on Sunday and centerfielder Ty Taborelli went 5-for-11 over the weekend.
The Illini were up 1-0 early Sunday when shortstop Addison Maruszak, who went 2-for-3, scored on a bloop single by second baseman Nick Cardieri to tie the game. Afterward, Karns hit an RBI single to take the 2-1 lead.
Illinois turned around and took the 3-2 lead on a Dominic Altobelli RBI double and a Kyle Hudson sacrifice fly. The Illini extended the lead to 7-3 as reliever Yuri Higgins gave up four runs on two hits in just two-thirds of an inning pitched.
The Bulls’ late push in the game came with one out as Taborelli singled to center field; Maruszak was then hit by a pitch, senior Kris Howell loaded the bases on a fielder’s choice, and catcher Brian Baisley drove home two runs on a single. Right fielder Joey Angelberger hit a sac fly, and Cardieri flied out to end the game.
With the Bulls well below a .500 record, Cardieri feels there is nowhere to go now but up, even after a weekend filled with bad luck.
“Sooner or later the tide has to turn,” Cardieri said. “We really can’t get any further against the wall. We have to come out fighting and get better, because it’s not going to get any easier.
“You can’t keep having buzzard’s luck, and it seems like the baseball gods are against us right now, but eventually things will start going our way. It’s better to have it happen now than at the end of the year when it really matters.”