Borders brothers’ bats propel Bulls to win

Luke Borders hit his first career grand slam to give the Bulls a lead in the seventh inning Wednesday. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Competition between the Borders brothers sparks even with the little things. 

“Whether it’s whoever gets the last cup of yogurt in the fridge, the last bit of orange juice, anything like that, it’s always a competition,” Luke Borders said. 

That was no different Wednesday night at the USF Baseball Stadium. 

It’s hard to say which brother outdid the other in the Bulls’ 11-9 win over Stetson (19-19). Both Levi and Luke had career nights to add to their highlight reels. 

Levi was just a double shy of hitting for the cycle — for the second time this season — while his younger brother hit his first grand slam to highlight the Bulls’ seven-run sixth inning. That grand slam gave USF a 10-6 advantage. 

After rounding the bases, Luke’s teammates greeted him with high-fives and smiles. 

“I don’t really hit many home runs,” said Luke, who now has two on the season. “So they were really excited for me.”

So excited that teammate Daniel Portales picked him up and spun him around before entering the dugout. 

The energized atmosphere was reminiscent of the USF-Cincinnati game March 19. Buddy Putnam capped the Bulls’ 10-run seventh inning with a walk-off grand slam to give USF a 15-4 advantage. That game was cut short thanks to the mercy rule. 

The Hatters refused to go down quietly, as they chipped away at the Bulls’ lead over the next two innings. 

No matter, Levi tripled and scored in the eighth to put the Bulls up, 11-9, for good. 

Levi went 3-for-3 with four runs, a hit-by-pitch and an intentional walk, while Luke went 3-for-3 with two walks, two runs and five RBIs.

“Our offense picked up our pitching,” coach Mark Kingston said. “Our pitching has picked up our hitting plenty of times this year, but tonight, the offense picked up our pitching.”

The long ball was the theme of the night, as five players homered. John Fussell and Will Mackenzie hit homers for the Hatters, and Austin Lueck’s home run sparked the Bulls’ rally in the sixth.

“Power is a premium in baseball,” Kingston said. “It gets you back in games, it energizes the dugout, it gives you momentum and it forces the other pitcher who just gave up a home run to maybe nibble a little bit.”

USF faced eight Stetson pitchers, but Adam Schaly (3-4) took the loss. Ryan Valdes (4-1) earned the win for the Bulls, and Tommy Peterson picked up his 12th save.

The competition continues Friday night at 7:30 when the Bulls (25-12-1, 7-2) play Memphis (23-11, 5-4) in Tennessee for a three-game conference series. In the meantime, the Borders brothers will likely keep their own competition going with each other. 

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