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Bulls’ baseball starts off season with a sweep of Bethune-Cookman

The USF baseball team kicked off its 40th season this weekend with a three-game set against Bethune-Cookman.

On Friday, Bulls sophomore pitcher Casey Hudspeth pitched 4.1 innings with five strikeouts while giving up only two hits and picked up a 3-1 win against the Wildcats at Municipal Stadium. Freshman Daniel Thomas, who came in for relief, struck out five of the first six batters he faced.

The Bulls allowed only three hits and gave up just four walks against Bethune, which scored its lone run in the bottom of the ninth against Yuri Higgins before Tim Mattison got the save by forcing a game-ending 6-4-3 double play with runners on first and third.

USF then traveled home for its Saturday match with the Wildcats at Red McEwen Field. Bethune-Cookman took a 5-1 lead on five unearned runs after 5 1/2 innings, though USF scored five runs in its sixth and seventh innings to squeeze out the 6-5 win.

The Bulls committed three errors — two by senior Jeff Baisley at third base — that allowed Bethune-Cookman two runs in the first.

Baisley and his brother, junior Brian Baisley, lead off the Bulls’ sixth inning with back-to-back singles to start a rally. Brian advanced to second and Brad Karns singled him in to make the score 5-2. With Karns at first, Kris Howell notched his second RBI of the game with a triple into left-center field to make it 5-3.

In the bottom of the seventh, Jeremy Bellotti and pinch hitter Matt McHargue had back-to-back walks and senior Bryan Hierlmeier doubled in both runs for the 5-5 tie. After moving to third on a throw home, Hierlmeier scored the winning run on Jeff Baisley’s fly ball to deep left.

On Sunday, the Bulls (3-0) had an offensive explosion, beating the Wildcats (0-3) 16-4. USF had its 16 runs on 17 hits, while eight runs came in the first three innings. Senior Kris Howell hit the Bulls’ first home run of the season in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Sophomore Chase Lirette (1-0) got the win, pitching five innings, while Blake Tillett, Jim Cassidy, Davis Bilardello and Yuri Higgins came in each pitching one inning of relief.

“I’m just really proud of our effort from our guys,” said coach Eddie Cardieri. “We were really tough in coming back (on Saturday), but this whole weekend, I was very satisfied with our pitching. We have so many young pitchers, and they all went out there and did a great job for us.

“It’s so important for us to get off to a good start. Because 40 seasons, by any right, is young. Some programs have been playing for 100 years, but I was really pleased with all aspects of our team.”