Leslie staying late

He played nine innings of baseball, but as fans headed to their cars and players dispersed, USF shortstop Myron Leslie took to the field once more. Leslie took extra fielding practice after he committed two errors during Sunday’s 11-8 win vs. Southern Illinois.

“I had two today, so right now, I don’t feel too good,” Leslie said. “I am just trying to work hard on being more consistent in the field.”

Leslie committed an error in the top of the fourth that allowed Saluki runners to advance to first and third. The next batter drove in a run with a single that allowed SIU to pull within one.

USF held on to win, but there was Leslie after the game taking extra groundballs.

“He’s as dedicated a player as I have ever coached,” USF coach Eddie Cardieri said. “He is going to do anything it takes to get better. He wants to get to where he is more confident in the field.”

Leslie didn’t allow his miscues to slip into his hitting as he collected six runs, four hits and two RBI.

In the series opener Friday, the Bulls won 9-1, but dropped Saturday’s game 4-3. That makes the Bulls 6-2, an improvement from last year’s 3-5 start.

“That’s key,” Leslie said. “(The) last couple years our starts — I think that’s kinda been something that has held us back when it came to regionals. I mean we have gotten in, but we kinda sneaked in. Getting off to a good start was something we really wanted to do this year. It’s important to us.”

Helping the Bulls pick up wins this weekend was catcher Devin Ivany, who went 7-for-11 with four runs and three RBI. Ivany had two doubles in Sunday’s game and a triple in Saturday’s.

Ivany’s stats were impressive, but a Saluki play in the top of the sixth Saturday may have put a damper on his otherwise solid weekend. Ivany was tricked by the second baseman when he took the ball back to the bag after a meeting with the pitcher and tagged Ivany for the third out of the inning.

The Bulls were up 3-1. However, the lead slipped away from USF in the top of the eighth when a balk was called on Joey Livingston. That call allowed a runner to advance to third and brought home the tying run. The next batter brought home the winning run in SIU’s 4-3 victory.

Both of Sunday’s starting pitchers could be blamed for the hit fest that occurred in the first four innings of play. Salukis pitcher Josh Joiner and Bulls pitcher Chris Delaney both gave up six runs before getting pulled.

Before this weekend, the starting pitching rotation was not stable, and that trend continued this weekend when David Austen replaced Jon Uhl as Friday’s starting pitcher. Austen went five innings with four strikeouts and allowed two hits. Austen started Friday so that he could start again Tuesday against Florida.

“We wanted an experienced pitcher throwing against Florida, not one of our freshmen,” Cardieri said.

Uhl pitched six innings Saturday, giving up six hits and one run while striking out four batters. Delaney, a freshman, started Sunday, pitching 3 1/3 innings as he allowed nine hits and six runs while striking out three batters.

Another strong hitter on the USF roster is redshirt freshman Kris Howell, who made his first start Friday after coming back from a hamstring injury suffered two weeks before the season began.

Howell started Sunday at designated hitter, too. He had five hits, two runs and four RBI in the two games.

“I just got a chance to play,” Howell said. “I was hitting the pitches hard and having them fall in the right place.”