Four weeks ago Tuesday night, junior Mike Cunningham led USF with two doubles and two RBI in the 9-4 bashing of in-state rival UCF.
The Bulls needed Cunningham, who is third on the team with a .368 average, to pave the way for another win Tuesday against the Golden Knights and lead them in the first of nine road games.
Just like the last meeting, Cunningham produced for the Bulls and led them to a 9-5 win. In the first inning, he hit his first of two singles into right field and stole third for the first score of the night.”This was a good win for our team, coming here on the road and beating a good club like UCF,” said coach Eddie Cardieri.
Senior pitcher John Gorham had 12 strikeouts and no walks, the best performance in his career. His previous strikeout record was 11 against Massachusetts March 1.
“I didn’t even realize he struck out 12,” said Cardieri. “What a gem. What a well-pitched ball game.”
Also helping the Bulls bury the Golden Knights early was junior Mike Macaluso. After being walked in the first, Macaluso stole once and nailed an infield single in the second.
In the second inning, USF would tally three consecutive RBI singles, and three more players had a hand in helping to dominate UCF 6-0 by the end of two.
One hitter was freshman Jeff Baisley, who hit a fly to center and brought Macaluso in for the score. In addition, junior Allen Shirley, who leads the team with a .375 average, started the second with a double into left field, and Devin Ivany singled and stole third base. Freshman Bryan Hierlmeier walked and ended up on third after Macaluso hit his second single.
UCF’s Adam Miller got their offense jump-started in the third inning after hitting a bunt single down the first baseline. A double to right field by George Cox and a fly to center field by Dee Brown brought in Miller for UCF’s first run of the night.
But the night wasn’t over for the Golden Knights. In the top of the fifth, Gorham retired two more batters, but then UCF got four consecutive hits. David Mann and Mike Myers led off the hit streak with singles up the middle, and Dee Brown and Clay Timper doubled to cut the Bulls lead to 6-4.
Even with the UCF runs, Gorham improved his starting record to 5-4.
“Tonight I feel like I pitched a little smarter,” Gorham said. “I made them put the ball into play.”
Also in the seventh, Ivany, who was three for four on the night, scored his second run of the night on a homer into left field, bringing the score to 7-4.
The Bulls added to their lead in the ninth when Cunningham, Macaluso and Leslie walked and loaded the bases. Baisley smacked a single into right field, bringing in Cunningham and Macaluso for the 9-5 win.
“This was a great win for our team. We got our 20th win tonight, and we wanted to get that one out of the way,” Gorham said.