A pessimistic David Austen did not feel good before USF’s game against Army. Throwing a career-high 11 strikeouts was the farthest thing from his mind, but Austen’s performance allowed the Bulls to narrowly beat the Black Knights 4-3 Tuesday.
“I didn’t feel that good after I was in the bullpen, and I didn’t feel that good in my warm-ups,” Austen said.
Despite the negative feeling, a glimmer of excellence shined through in the first inning when Austen struck out three out of four batters and added a fourth in the top of the second. That glimmer soon dimmed though, as Austen walked two batters, both of whom scored after Justin Kasting hit a ball that hugged the right field line.
“My brain was going 100 miles per hour,” Austen said. “I thought I was going to blow up.”
Austen knew that he had to keep calm in order to stop the Black Knights from scoring any more runs. He controlled his breathing to settle his nerves and put everything in the past. The senior pitcher struck out seven more batters and allowed only one more hit before being replaced by Tim Mattison in the bottom of the eighth.
“He really bowed his neck,” USF coach Eddie Cardieri said. “There was a couple close pitches that didn’t go his way, and he ended up walking a guy or two, but he bowed his neck and did a job.
The Bulls (14-6) jumped to a quick lead in the first inning, getting up 2-0 on the Black Knights. Bryan Hierlmeier doubled to center field, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Myron Leslie walked, and then Jeff Baisley smashed a hard one-hopper to the pitcher, who bobbled the ball allowing Hierlmeier to score and Leslie to advance to second. Another wild pitch put Leslie in a scoring position before Devin Ivany hit a sacrifice fly that brought him in.
Travis Brown broke the tie in the fourth inning after being driven in by Mike Cunningham’s dying quail to right field. Scott Rachlin put the Bulls up by two in the fifth inning after driving in Ivany with a grounder to the right side.
Army tried to make a comeback in the ninth inning, closing the gap to one after Wes Bumgardener drove in Nate Stone with two outs. It was too little too late for Army, a strike out by Joey Livingston ended the game.