Trying to level its record at .500 for the first time since March 5, the USF baseball team was playing well until a disastrous fourth inning dashed its hopes.
USF (15-17, 5-4) was hanging tough with No. 21 Stetson (26-7, 12-3 Atlantic Sun) in Deland, until the Hatters’ bats exploded for 16 hits in a 9-1 blowout loss.
The Bulls jumped out to a lead in the top of the second inning courtesy of an Alex Mendez sacrifice fly to center field that scored first baseman Todd Brazeal.
The lead wouldn’t last long, as the Hatters replied with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning. After a leadoff single by third baseman Ben Carhart, designated hitter Trey Blackman lined an RBI double down the left-field line to score Carhart and even the score at 1-1.
Both teams posted zeroes in the runs column until Stetson sent 12 batters to the plate and broke the game open in the fourth inning.
USF freshman starter Nick Gonzalez was shelled for three consecutive doubles, including an RBI double to right field by Blackman, to begin the inning. Stetson first baseman Ryan Lashley extended the lead to 4-1 with a two-RBI single to center field, the fourth consecutive hit in the inning.
After getting the next two Hatters out, Gonzalez gave up an RBI single to Robert Crews before shortstop Mark Jones crushed a two-run home run over the center-field wall to chase Gonzalez from the game.
His replacement, Andrew Loynaz, gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, as the nightmare inning continued.
By the time that inning ended, the game was out of USF’s reach, with Stetson leading 8-1. Gonzalez pitched 3.2 innings, allowing 10 hits and seven earned runs and falling to 2-3 on the year.
In all, Stetson’s batters produced nine extra-base hits, compared to two for USF.
Stetson starter Will Dorsey picked up the complete-game victory, allowing just one earned run and striking out four Bulls.
On a positive note, USF third baseman Jonathan Koscso went 3-for-4, extending his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 28. He has reached base safely in all but one game this season.
The Bulls continue their road trip with a three-game set against Big East conference foe Seton Hall beginning Friday, before getting another shot at Stetson at home Tuesday.