Even though the Bulls walked off the field as victors in a 4-0 win over visiting Dartmouth, they suffered one of their worst loses of the season Friday with senior catcher Levi Borders now out for the remainder of the season with a bacterial infection.
Despite the absence of Borders, USF (13-10) continued its success at home this season behind a complete-game shutout from Phoenix Sanders. The junior pitcher allowed five hits and a walk while striking out seven in his second win of the season.
“(Borders is) a very important part of our team,” USF coach Mark Kingston said. “He’s a leader, he’s a power hitter at a premium position, so we’ll feel the loss. But it just seems like this is the kind of year where a lot is going against us, but our kids are playing hard and guys are stepping into new roles and so far they’re performing.”
Sanders and Dartmouth pitcher Cole O’Conner went to work on opposing hitters quickly, with neither team able to break through in the first four innings.
USF freshman outfielder Chris Chatfield put an end to the stalemate with a towering shot over the right field foul pole to lead off the fifth. The Bulls added one more later that inning with hits from shortstop Coco Montes and second baseman Kevin Merrell to extend the lead to 2-0.
Sanders coasted through the remaining four innings, including a three-pitch eighth inning.
“(Sanders) had good stuff,” Kingston said. “Early in the game he was leaving the ball up, but he made an adjustment to get the ball down. Once he did, he was in pretty much control. He was able to minimize his pitches.”
USF added two more runs in the eighth inning, knocking O’Conner out of the game.
With his pitch count well under 100 and the lead at four, closer Tommy Eveld remained in the dugout as Sanders returned to the mound for the ninth. Sanders didn’t allow a runner to reach, striking out two in the final frame.
Borders, who was an anchor of the Bulls’ lineup and defense, will use a medical redshirt for the rest of 2016, enabling him to play another year at USF pending his health.
“We’re going to do the right thing by him and he’s going to get that under control and he’ll return next season,” Kingston said.