High Point 11 USF 13
Coach Lelo Prado needed a jolt Sunday.
The first-year coach got one during the Bulls’ 13-11 win over North Point on Sunday in front of a crowd of 623. That jolt didn’t last all nine innings, but a steal at home plate set the tone for at least six innings.
The Bulls flawlessly and convincingly pulled that off in the second inning for the go-ahead run after the Panthers jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead.
“We practice that play all the time,” said shortstop Walter Diaz, the transfer from Miami who executed the steal. “I thought that I had it, and we took a shot at it and just got it, but it wasn’t no surprise (that we ran it).
“They’re rare. They just don’t happen too much.”
On a 2-2 count with first baseman Brandin Daniel at the plate and the score tied at three, Diaz made his run during Panther pitcher Tony Flores’ windup and made it home safely with help from a pitch in the dirt.
“We were a little flat,” Prado said. “We were going to take off if we had the opportunity because the (pitcher) wasn’t paying very close attention to our runners. We had the best opportunity with the best guy there, Walter Diaz, and that’s the kind of ball we like to play.”
Second baseman Addison Maruszak said, “That was a real, real good call – changed the momentum of the game.”
USF (3-0) swept the weekend series over High Point (2-4), with 14-0 and 5-2 wins Friday and Saturday, respectively.
But Sunday, the Bulls had a tough time closing the game out when they let a 13-6 lead dwindle down to a two-run lead.
“Overall I thought we did very well this weekend,” said Prado, who notched his 600th career victory Saturday after coaching for the University of Tampa, Louisville and now USF. “Except for the last two innings there.”
Junior pitcher Davis Billardello started the game Sunday but was pulled after just one inning when he allowed three runs. Fellow junior Chris Delaney, who picked up the win, pitched five scoreless innings.The Bulls scored seven runs in the second inning and six more over the other six innings.
Second baseman Dexter Butler, who replaced Maruszak in the seventh, and Diaz both committed costly errors in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, that led to a combined four runs for High Point.
Prado said redshirt freshman Daryl Lewis, freshman Shawn Sanford and senior Yuri Higgins, who gave up a combined eight runs and six walks, were throwing “too many balls” out of the bullpen. Sophomore pitcher Matt Wagner earned his first collegiate save.
“Our bullpen has got to come in and throw strikes,” Prado said. “We can’t walk all these guys because then that puts us on our heels, and the guys get out there and make errors. I’m not comfortable with the way we finished today, but I’m glad we’re 3-0.”
Added Maruszak: “I expected everything this weekend except for those last two innings. We just slacked off there today at the end, and we got lucky to come out (Sunday) with the win.
“I think our team thought we had it in the bag. … Everyone was just trying too hard, and I felt everyone was too afraid to charge the play. We have to do it like we do in practice.”
Through the three games, 2,343 USF fans headed out to Red McEwen field. But Prado, looking back at how the Bulls nearly gave away the sweep, said he’s still working out early-season kinks and is looking for the right personnel.
“Every(one) got flat because of those balls,” Prado said. “Wagner did a great job. He had that big save for us. But we’ll find the guys to get it done, because I don’t care if it’s a freshman or a senior, those guys must get it done.”