Bulls miss out

Florida 10 | No. 30 USF 5

The Bulls had it.

With a 5-3 lead going into the eighth inning, first-year coach Lelo Prado pulled out all the stops, since USF was hosting Florida in front of 2,426 fans.

Prado made the call to the bull pen, requesting Friday night starter Danny Otero, the Duke transfer who was 3-0 with a minuscule 0.41 ERA coming into the game.

“Everything was great,” Prado said following the game. “Otero had an easy eighth inning.”

He did, but it was ninth inning, covered in a fog as thick as clouds, that doomed USF (9-2) and ended up a 10-5 loss to the Gators (6-6) as Otero gave up seven runs, only one earned.

Otero gave up a single to the centerfielder Avery Barnes, then committed an error on a slow rolling ground ball near third base. Shortstop Jon Townsend, who was consistently booed throughout the game because he is a Louisville transfer, advanced to second on the error through.

Designated hitter Matt LaPorta hit the game-tying RBI single two batters later, and then pinch hitter Matt den Dekker broke open the 5-5 tie with a three RBI triple to left field.

“Who would ever thought Otero would give up seven runs in the ninth?” Prado said. “He’s a senior. He knows what’s going on … I don’t regret bringing Otero in (this midweek game). He wanted the ball and the game ended the way it did. He made good pitches, (the Gators) hit them.”

Otero, following the game, had few words to say.

“I had to get three outs,” said Otero, whose ERA inflated to 0.76, since he was only charged with one earned run due to the error. “I just didn’t do it – just didn’t get it done. That’s about all I can say right now.”

In front of the largest crowd this season – there was only standing room available – the Bulls, who are ranked No. 30 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, felt they missed out a chance to prove their early season record wasn’t a fluke and that they are a better team than the Gators.

There was standing room only at Red McEwen Field on Tuesday, which had a crowd of 2,426, the largest of the season. ORACLE PHOTO/SEAN REED

“We missed out tonight,” said third baseman Addison Maruszak, who went 2-for-5 and had six infield assists Tuesday. “We’re a better team than that club right there. Florida has the big name and everything – we’re a much better team than them. When we get them next time in regionals, if they make regionals … if we play them, we’re going to beat them. That’s a guarantee.”

Prado agreed that the opportunity was missed Tuesday.

“When you want to be a great program, you got to beat guys like (Florida),” Prado said. “You can’t give up leads like that.”

The Bulls scored first in the game when centerfielder Joey Angelberger hit a standup double and catcher Braulio Pardo moved him to third on a high chopper.

Angelberger, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI, scored on a past ball thrown and Pardo advanced to second. Pardo later scored on a fielder’s choice by leadoff hitter Walter Diaz.

Gators’ starter Kevin Chapman (1-0) lasted only 3 1/3 innings and gave up three runs on four hits and reliever Josh Edmondson gave up a run on three hits.

Tampa native and true freshman Matt Quevedo got the start and lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs. Relievers Davis Bilardello and Shawn Sanford came in, and combined, pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

Prado still seemed upbeat following the postgame meeting with the team. With a crowd as large as Tuesday’s, Prado still beamed despite a ninth inning meltdown. “(That’s a) great crowd,” Prado said. “That’s what we want. That’s what college baseball is all about, and that’s what we got to have if we want to be a great program.

“And I’m proud as hell of our guys – they battled their ass off because they brought a fast paced, (high) intensity ball game, and that’s what I want.”