In the first three innings Tuesday, UCF starting pitcher Von David Sterzbach rendered the USF offense impotent, limiting it to three hits and no runs.
However, it was just a matter of time before the Bulls’ offense would bust through.
And bust through they did.
Sparked by a hit-and-run in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Bulls scored five runs in the fourth en route to an 8-5 victory.
For USF baseball coach Ed Cardieri, it was a big victory against an in-state rivals.
“They’re all big (victories),” Cardieri said. “We have UCF and Stetson in the middle of the week, and they’re two teams who will be right there at the end for regional consideration. The committee looks at head-to-head competition, so these are all big games.”
From the start, Sterzbach was mixing up a variety of off-speed pitches and fastballs against the Bulls. But in the fourth, his control went awry.
After walking Myron Leslie, Cardieri called the hit-and-run with no outs. With Leslie running, Jeff Baisley roped a single to right-center field to advance Leslie to third. Devin Ivany hit an infield single off Sterzbach’s glove to drive in Leslie.
After a double steal advanced Baisley and Ivany, Ronnie Handley hit a two-run single to push the score to 3-0. Travis Brown and Mike Cunningham followed up with RBI singles to make it 5-0.
“I think that hit-and-run was a big part of the game,” Cardieri said. “Not only is he a good hitter, but Jeff Baisley can handle the bat. We tried to hit-and-run a little bit this year, and it didn’t work out, but Baisley hit really well in that situation.”
The Bulls tacked on two more in the sixth with Brown roping an RBI triple to right field, and Bryan Hierlmeier hitting an RBI single.
The Bulls also benefited from some timely defense. In the top of the second, Drew Butera ripped a line drive to third baseman Baisley. Baisley snared the drive and threw to first, doubling off the runner caught between first and second.
In the top of the fourth with one out and runners on first and second, Leslie went to cover second in an apparent pick-off attempt. When the Golden Knight runner took off for third, Leslie created a big hole between shortstop and third base. However, the batter hit a shot right up the middle and Leslie stepped on second base and threw to first for the double play.
UCF’s offense woke up in the top of the seventh, scoring four runs. UCF scored another run in the eighth, but it wasn’t enough.
Freshman Chris Delaney made his sixth start of the season and picked up his first victory of the year. The right-hander gave up one hit in five innings pitched.
“He was all right,” Cardieri said. “He gave up some hard hit balls, but they were right to people.”
Even though the defense bailed Delaney out of a couple jams, Cardieri wasn’t too happy with the its two errors.
“Nothing makes me happy about making errors, believe me,” Cardieri said. “We talked about it with the team after the game. This team has climbed from .950 to over .960 fielding. In order to pitch well, you have to play defense well. We’re just too inconsistent with the defense.”
The Bulls finished with 14 hits, their highest total since March 25 against Bethune-Cookman.
Cardieri was very pleased with the hitting, considering he said UCF had the best pitchers the Bulls have faced this year.