In a crucial series for the USF baseball team, it faltered in Houston against the Cougars (18-21, 9-8 C-USA), being able to pull out only one win in the three-game weekend.
Sophomore Casey Hudspeth came out with his best outing in two starts, pitching 7 1/3 innings for the 6-2 win Friday, but Bulls’ errors by second baseman Joey Angelberger and shortstop Dexter Butler led to a 8-2 loss Saturday, and on Sunday, a close game ended in a 3-2 loss.
“Friday night, we played great,” coach Eddie Cardieri said. “Casey pitched a gem, you know? Nine strikeouts, no walks.
“(Saturday), their pitcher was probably one of the top five performances we had thrown against us.
“(Sunday’s) game could have gone either way. It was 3-0 for quite a while. Then we had a rally, but we also had the bases loaded and just couldn’t get that crucial run across. Like I said, it could have gone either way, but we just couldn’t pull it off.”
USF (24-21) now drops to 10-8 in conference play and is slipping in weekend series versus important teams like Houston and TCU. The Bulls are also slipping down the C-USA rankings, as the team was in third place Friday.
“A lot of (the conference losses) can come back to haunt you,” Cardieri said. “It’s just that this time of the year, every series is critical. I thought this series was very pivotal. We’re still near the top of the league, I guess, but we just have to battle on from here.”
On Friday, Angelberger and Butler were heroes in the win, each having three hits and two RBI. James Rowe and Tim Mattison combined to retire the final five Houston batters in relief of Hudspeth.
The two errors on Saturday — the 17th by Butler and the first by Angelberger, while the team has committed 76 total on the season — were helped by a wild pitch from reliever Davis Bilardello and allowed Houston to score six runs in the sixth inning.
The bright spot in the loss was sophomore Yuri Higgins’ first start, in which he retired 13 straight batters and had no hits through 4 1/3 innings, until Butler’s throwing error. Higgins, after only giving up two hits, gave up two runs through 5 1/3 innings.
“Those errors, we just have to try our best not to make them so often,” Cardieri said. “That’s been our pattern. We’re either playing real good or we’re playing real bad. There’s no in-between. And when we play bad, it’s usually the walks and the errors.”
Senior Tim Orlosky hit his sixth home run on a two-run shot that also brought home freshman Brandin Daniel, though Cougar starter Brad Lincoln (3-5) struck out a career-high 13 batters in eight innings.
Sunday’s game, as Cardieri claimed, could have gone either way, as the Bulls almost overcame a 3-0 deficit. But freshman starter Blake Tillett was only able to finish one inning after walking in the first run and giving up a second run on a double play.
USF could only gather two runs off a home run from Angelberger in the eighth, and the team missed numerous chances on double plays and defensive plays by Houston.
The Cougars scored the decisive third run off Rowe, who got two quick outs in the seventh, before a single, a stolen base and a double brought a run home.
Cardieri knows the losses were tough, but still sees a positive coming back from Houston.
“We just didn’t get that clutch hit when we needed it (Sunday),” Cardieri said. “We pitched well, though. We probably pitched well enough to win two, if not all three of the games.