Turns out, seventh time is the charm.
Stetson had a six-game winning streak against USF as of Tuesday, but the Bulls ended it with their 6-5 win at Red McEwen Field.
USF and Stetson, facing off for the 144th time, played a close game, but the Bulls(11-4) used a clutch hit and a shut-down pitching performance to continue leading the all-time series 74-70.
“We played good,” coach Lelo Prado said. “We got good pitching, and everyone who came in did their job. … We got clutch hitting, and we bunted when we needed to, and for us to win, we have to do all those things right.”
A clutch hit in the eighth inning by pinch hitter Josh LeRoy was something USF did right.
With two outs and centerfielder Joey Angelberger on second, LeRoy hit a grounder to Hatters shortstop Kevin Johnson, but the freshman had a throwing error, allowing Angelberger to score.
USF grabbed an early 3-0 lead as Hatters starting pitcher Justin Dechert walked the first two batters, beamed third baseman Addison Maruszak – he’s been hit by a pitch nine times this season – and then walked first baseman Brandin Daniel.
Stetson (10-5) tied up the game and then took the lead in the sixth when starter Matt Quevedo, who pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up four earned runs and six hits, walked in the go-ahead run. Reliever James Rowe also allowed an RBI single, but that run was charged to Quevedo.
“I thought it was an awesome job by Quevedo,” said Davis Bilardello, who pitched one inning of relief. “Those situations, we would give up big runs – just look at this weekend. But he didn’t let that affect him and put up zeros.”With the marginal lead after LeRoy’s clutch hit, the Bulls brought in Bilardello in the eighth and freshman Shawn Sanford to close out the game.
Sanford, a New Jersey native, struck out the last two batters to secure the win.
“I was getting lefties out that inning,” Bilardello said. “I was really confident when they brought (Sanford) in after me.”
Added Sanford: “(Stetson) is a fast ball-hitting team, and I threw curveballs out there to mess them up a bit.”
Prado said Sanford’s pitches get better as time goes on.
“He’s got a good breaking ball and a good fast ball to get past guys as well,” Prado said. “He’s a good pitcher, and with every out he gets, he builds more confidence.”
Even though USF was on a six-game losing streak to Stetson, stemming from last season, Sanford feels the team should have played the Hatters better Feb. 20, when the Bulls received their first loss of the season.
“Losing three out of four – we have the attitude that we’re better than 11-4, and we want to go (NCAA) regionals real bad,” Sanford said. “We have to win 13 out of, like, 15 games to do that.
“We’re a better team than Stetson. We shouldn’t have lost to them the first time.”
And once again, Prado said he didn’t want excuses from his team, which has struggled since starting the season 9-1.
“I want to hear excuses on why (they are) tired,” Prado said. “(They’ve) got no excuses for anybody to be tired. The only tired they should be is tired of losing around here. OK? The last couple of years have been awful around here. That’s what they should be tired of.”