USF takes two of three games from Sycamores

The USF Baseball team opened its season Friday night in ideal baseball weather – 70 degrees and clear skies – and finished the weekend taking two of three games from the Indiana State Sycamores.

The outcome didn’t satisfy USF coach Lelo Prado, who questioned the team’s offensive consistency and on-base percentage.

“We can’t be satisfied,” Prado said. “Our hitters have to make a lot of adjustments. (Shortstop Addison Maruszak and designated hitter Brian Hobbs) had a great series, but the top and bottom of the order need to get on base. We need to get a lot better, quickly.”

Maruszak, who went 6-for-13 (.461) with a home run and two runs batted in for the series, fueled an inconsistent offense that couldn’t muster runs early but caught fire late in all three games. Hobbs went 4-for-11 (.363) and doubled three times in the third game of the series.

The problem for the Bulls was that despite Maruszak and Hobbs’ production, there was nobody on base to drive home, since the top of the order went 3-for-27 (.111) for the series.

The pitching was solid, as starters junior Daniel Thomas, sophomore Matt Quevedo and freshman Randy Fontanez all contributed at least five innings of work and allowed fewer than three earned runs in each of their outings.

Thomas, the ace of the staff, is recovering from an injury, but that didn’t prevent him from pitching a five-inning shutout while on a 70-pitch limit imposed by the coaching staff.

In Friday’s opener, USF got a victory from Thomas’ pitching and a late scoring run. The game was tied at one until the seventh inning, when Bulls designated hitter Eric Baumann got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, allowing right fielder Chris Rey to cross the plate to take the lead. Maruszak put things away in the eighth with a solo home run to left field that traveled an estimated 400 feet.

“We got used to everything during our third time at the plate. We won with small ball tonight, and we took advantage of Indiana’s only error to win,” Maruszak said.

Saturday’s game was the most exciting of the weekend, as the Bulls rallied from five runs down in the seventh to win in extra innings.

After failing to capitalize on loaded bases in the seventh and eighth innings, the Bulls tied the game with a grand slam by Rey in the ninth inning with one out.

“I got a fastball inside. I was thinking about pulling the ball all the way and driving it,” Rey said.

USF went 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position in Saturday’s game, and the trend continued in Sunday’s series finale, which, according to Sycamores coach Lindsay Meggs, was a game in which Indiana “could have gotten shoved out the door.”

“I was very proud of my team, we hung in there,” Meggs said. “South Florida is a typical ‘Prado team.’ They pitch, play defense and get the timely hit. They might have a slow start, but I believe USF will be there in the end.”

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