It’s an hour and a half drive from Orlando to Tampa including the construction and traffic on I-4. For those fans who made the risky trek to Red McEwen Field to see USF (20-14, 7-1 C-USA) face its so-called in-state rival, UCF (28-7, 9-3 A-SUN), it was well worth the drive.
The two Florida teams — both of which are moving to new conferences later this year, but are atop their respective conferences of A-SUN and C-USA at game time — combined to score 15 runs and 22 hits. The game ultimately came down to which team could put up more offense, as pitching was a nonexistent defense for both clubs until late into the game, when UCF came out ahead 8-7.
“There were still a lot of positives to come out of this game,” coach Eddie Cardieri said. “James Rowe looked real good out there, especially the way he pitched. He was so good to do what he did in 30 pitches.
“We lost a one- run game. We did a lot of little things wrong, and little things make big things happen. And if we had did them the way they needed to be done, we would have had a better chance.”
The Bulls scored first in the second inning when catcher Brian Baisley doubled, then advanced to third after walks of designated hitter Nick Cardieri and Jeremy Brand. Second baseman Dexter Butler grounded a ball to shortstop Kevin Richmond, but he bobbled the ball and Baisley scored on the error.
Bulls’ pitching had a tough time getting the ball over the plate as starter Blake Tillet and Chase Lirette hit three batters, who subsequently all scored runs.
With the score tied 1-1 after a RBI single by Richmond, first baseman Matt McHargue hit his seventh home run of the season, which puts him in a tie with right fielder Bryan Hierlmeier for the team lead. Brian Baisley came up next and knocked in a single and, with Nick Cardieri at bat, Baisley stole second, knocked the ball out of Richmond’s glove and advanced to third. On the very next pitch, Cardieri drove Baisley home on a RBI single, as the Bulls took the 3-1 lead.
Though freshman starter Tillet had a tough time on the mound, pitching 4 2/3 innings, he got two strikeouts, let up two walks and hit two of the three batters who were hit.
“I think we played alright tonight, I just think we got out-hit,” McHargue said. “Our pitching was alright, but our defense was a little shaky. They just scored more runs. That was the difference in the ball game.
“Tonight was an opposite of what has been going on for us all along. Our offense started coming around when our pitching wasn’t. It’s just unexplainable.”
Tillet got into trouble in the fourth with two men on and one out, as first baseman Chandler Rose looped a ball to left field and Tim Orlosky missed the catch by about a foot, loading the bases. The bunt by Tyson Auer allowed the first run to score, and the tying run at 3-3 scored on a miss played barehanded ball by Butler.
In the bottom of the inning, Brian Baisley hit a triple to the right field corner as Orlosky scored from first base after singling, giving the Bulls a slight, though short, 4-3 lead.
The Golden Knights, who just dropped out of the Top 25 national rankings, tied the game yet again in the fifth with a sacrifice fly by Ryan Bono that scored Dee Brown from third, off Lirette. Third baseman Jeff Baisley ended the inning by putting together a 5-3 double play, tagging out a runner and throwing out the batter headed to first.
UCF quickly took a four-run lead in the sixth as pitching and fielding got sloppy on the Bulls. Nick Manganaro came into to pitch for Lirette and gave up a RBI double to Richmond, who scored four of UCF’s eight runs, but then scored himself on a wild pitch. After a single by UCF’s John-Michael Howell, he stole second base on a late throw by Brian Baisley and then Brown scored to make the score 8-4.
The Bulls came right back in the bottom of the inning, as Jeff Baisley scored Orlosky who reached after being plunked by relief pitcher Brian Brooks. Brian Baisley, who went 3-for-5 and scored three runs, then hit a RBI double, scoring his brother and bringing the score to 8-6.
Brooks then loaded the bases by walking Cardieri, who went 2-for-2 with a RBI, and Brand. Butler popped a ball in the infield, which was misplayed by second baseman Marshall Bernhard, allowing Brian Baisley to bring the score to 8-7, though Ty Taborelli grounded out to end the scoring run.
Rowe, a freshman, came in the seventh inning to pitch and shut down seven straight batters, striking out five as all hitters left their bats on their shoulders. In the end, the Bulls were shut down as Manganaro picked up his second loss, giving up four runs on five hits.
“We did a good job. I have no complaints,” Cardieri said. “This won’t be a night where I’ll lose any sleep, wondering what we did wrong or what we could have done differently. Hopefully we can learn from the things we did wrong and not do them again.”