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Bulls keep ahead of Tigers

It was an up and down weekend for the USF baseball team. Numerous lead changes and high scoring games highlighted the first home conference series for the Bulls as they took two of three from Memphis (7-13, 2-4 C-USA).

On Saturday, USF (17-13, 5-1 C-USA) won 8-7 but was hit hard on Sunday by the Tigers 15-5 in seven innings for its first conference loss of the season.

But it was Good Friday when the Bulls were treated just right at Red McEwen Field.

Sophomore ace Casey Hudspeth made the start for USF, but uncharacteristically struggled early, giving up three runs on four hits in the first inning. The Sarasota native then pitched eight innings for the 6-5 win and ended the night with eight strikeouts, seven hits, five runs and two walks.

The Bulls found themselves in a three-run hole in the bottom of the fourth when Brian Baisley — who went 1-for-4 with 2 RBI — opened the inning with a single and then advanced to second on a pass ball, as shortstop Jeremy Brand was subsequently walked. Brian’s replacement behind the plate, Brad Karns, then moved the first baseman — the replacement for Matt McHargue and Brandin Daniel, who are both recovering from injuries — to third. Freshman Dexter Butler would drive home Baisley and Brand on a single up the middle.

In the top of the fifth, Hudspeth gave up one more run to make the score 4-2, but the Bulls answered back with two of their own when designated hitter Kris Howell started off with a single. Third baseman Jeff Baisley was awarded a base due to catcher interference, then his brother Brian doubled up the middle scoring Howell. Jeff Baisley — who went 2-for-3 — would score on the next batter, Brand, who singled to left field.

USF and Memphis would each exchange a run, until the bottom of the eighth when coach Eddie Cardieri started to replace his batters with players off the bench and brought in Tim Orlosky for Howell. Orlosky hit his second pinch hit home run of the season and his third of the year to secure the win.

“The (pitcher) just made a mistake and just threw it right over the middle,” Orlosky said. “That’s what you do with that kind of pitch.”

Cardieri added, “It’s tough to believe that Tim can just come off the bench and do that, but that kid is just a great hitter and knows what to do up there. He’s been a good hitter his whole life.”

Hudspeth was able to improve his record to a team-leading 5-1 and has 56 strikeouts, but has only given up 22 runs.

“I was happy I was able to settle down after the second (inning),” Hudspeth said. “I just wasn’t hitting my spots and that’s what the team really needed from me.

“We really came together as a team with my pitching and the offensive hitting, but I still have room to improve. I really need to get ahead of batters.”

Cardieri was also impressed by how his team — Hudspeth, in particular — was able to bounce back from a rough start and a tough loss to Kent State on March 22.

“(Casey) gave up four hits in the first inning, but for the rest of the game (Memphis) only got three, so when he was able to settle in, he had great stuff tonight. His command of the strike zone was amazing and I’m proud of him for battling the way he did.

“I never had a doubt about him in my mind that he wouldn’t be able to settle in. The kid is just good. And once he settled in, he was just outstanding.”