Eagles fly the coop on USF baseball team

EMU 9, USF 4
EMU 7, USF 6 F/10
USF 2, EMU 0

USF baseball coach Eddie Cardieri was only 10 years old when the baseball program began in 1965. So when his 50th birthday came around on Saturday, and after 20 years of being the Bull’s coach, he received an unexpected present: a tough opponent.

The Bulls (5-5) dropped two of three games to Eastern Michigan (2-1) over the weekend, losing 9-4 on Friday and 7-6 in extra innings on Saturday, but were able to pull out a finale win Sunday, 2-0.

Starting pitching was top notch for the Bulls as sophomores Casey Hudspeth, Nick Manganaro and Chase Lirette gave up a total of two Eagle runs in the three game set as the two right-handed pitchers and the southpaw, Manganaro, had 22 strikeouts and only 15 hits.

Although that sounds like a great gift for the seasoned coach to unwrap, there was one important stat that didn’t add up.

None of the three starters came out of the weekend with a win.

“(A win) starts with a start,” coach Eddie Cardieri said. “Chase Lirette gave a great start and Daniel Thomas came in and shut the door. The starters gave us a chance.”

Chances came and went quickly for USF, but a lot of the offensive chances came from the Baisley brothers, Jeff and Brian. Combined, the two Land o’ Lakes siblings went 8-for-24, scored two runs, and had 6 RBI.

In Friday’s loss, Jeff came up and doubled to left center and two batters later, after Matt McHargue and Nick Cardieri both flied out, Brian stepped up and drove his brother home.

However, the Bulls came up short on Friday due to relief pitching, despite Hudspeth’s record performance, who had a career-high 11 strikeouts. Freshman Davis Bilardello was only able to get one out in the top of the seventh, which brought in another freshman, James Rowe, who loaded the bases by hitting EMU outfielder Ryan Arnett with a pitch and gave up a grand slam to first baseman Matt Moffett.

Even with his great individual performance, Hudspeth was still upset that the team lost.

“I don’t really care how many I had,” Hudspeth said. “If we don’t win, it means nothing.”

Saturday’s four-hour extra-inning loss — a huge surprise for the birthday boy, Cardieri — came after the USF bullpen blew a 5-1 lead in the eighth inning. Freshman Ty Pryor came out to pitch for Manganaro and proceeded to throw seven straight balls. Pryor and Matt Ingram gave up the five runs to the Eagles, but the Bulls tied the game up in the bottom of the ninth, after Jeff Baisley hit one of his three doubles, then advancing to third and home on singles by Brandin Daniel and Nick Cardieri, respectively. Rowe came in to relieve sophomore Yuri Higgins in the 10th, and again gave up the winning run.

EMU — which has been practicing in its gym because of Michigan weather that has been in the low 20s — were able to hold USF scoreless for 7 1/2 innings on Sunday when Brian Baisley doubled home senior Bryan Hierlmeier and junior Jeremy Bellotti.

Lirette, who had six strikeouts and allowed only five hits, was replaced by Daniel Thomas in the top of the seventh and struck out three batters of his own. Thomas — a freshman who had Tommy John surgery less than 14 months ago — leads the Bulls with a 2-1 record after not playing his entire senior year in high school while in rehab.

“I’ve had a lot of help in rehabbing and (my elbow) feels good,” Thomas said.

Cardieri added, “(His recovery) is remarkable. It’s barely been over a year. And to come back that fast and throw like that well is really an exception to the rule.”

So maybe next year the veteran coach will get a more pleasent surprise for his birthday.