Mightier than Penn

It’s what the Bulls needed: 17 runs, 18 hits.

The USF baseball team (5-9) scored 12 runs on 17 at-bats in the bottom of the fourth inning Tuesday against Penn (0-3) at Red McEwen Field, securing a much-needed 17-3 win.

The Bulls, who were on a four-game losing streak, played nearly every field player on the roster, including players such as freshman Brett Boggs and sophomore Joel Cardieri, who both saw their first collegiate playing time.

“We really weren’t looking for (this kind of game), but we needed it,” coach Eddie Cardieri said. “It’s good to get some of the younger guys some experience.”

USF, which is off to one of its worst starts under Cardieri, gained an early lead after senior Brian Baisley’s two-run home run in the first inning, but with the recently rough patch the Bulls had been going through, Cardieri felt his team couldn’t cut back and take the Quakers lightly.

“The way we’ve been going, we surely don’t have a team (on the schedule) we’re supposed to beat,” said Cardieri, who is in his 21st season with USF. “(The beginning of the season) is a process – a learning experience. And we’re still learning.

“Look, you’re not going to get 18 hits every night, and what’s good about this game is we had way better at-bats tonight, and that’s what we want to see.”

Penn, which is in last place of the Lou Gehrig division in the Ivy League, took a brief one-run lead in the second inning on a sac fly by second baseman Rajan Paty, but it was in the fourth inning that USF put a Penn win out of reach.

Players such as Baisley, sophomore Dexter Butler and freshman Addison Maruszak each had three RBI on the night while going 2-for-4, 4-for-5 and 2-for-3, respectively.

Second baseman Gus Fernandez, filling in for Nick Cardieri, went 4-for-6 on the night with an RBI and four runs scored.

“We needed (this tonight),” said Baisley, who played first base instead of his usual position behind the plate. “We needed to get our bats going, and we got 17 runs on 18 hits, so it’s a good start to get on a good roll.

“We’ve been closer and closer to getting on that roll, and 18 hits is going to help. I mean, we had 11 (hits) on Sunday (against Illinois) – that was the season high. We got seven more than that tonight, so now we need to take that into the weekend.”

The Bulls went through five pitchers Tuesday, with the start going to Yuri Higgins. The junior right-hander gave up the Quakers’ three runs on five hits, but also struck out two. Junior Nick Manganaro, senior A.J. Highsmith, sophomore Ryan Lau and junior Chase Lirette combined over the four innings to give up only two hits and no runs.

Prior to Tuesday, the season high for runs was nine against Northwestern, but even with the offensive outpour, Baisley feels the team still has a few patches to smooth over.

“I still think a few things need to be tinkered with (in the lineup),” Baisley said. “A few guys, in my mind, solidified their spots, but there’s plenty of room to improve.”

Butler agreed Tuesday’s win was satisfying.

“(We needed this win,) very much so,” Butler said. “Coming into the game, (a) lot of people were pressing and trying too hard, when they just needed to relax when they’re hitting. I think this is what we need to get things on the right foot.

“I think baseball is a funny game. If we had come out here and not played our best, than yeah, we would have lost. Every game, we have to come out with our best, and I don’t think you can ever take a team lightly because, well, Illinois was 0-3, and they put it to us.”