Oklahoma 7, USF 5
The South Florida baseball team came from behind to win five games during spring break. No. 25 Oklahoma, however, shut down USF’s come-from-behind abilities Wednesday, defeating the Bulls 7-5 and extending their losing streak to three.
The Sooners won both games of a two-game series at Red McEwen Field against USF. In those games, Oklahoma took the lead first and never relinquished it.
Once Oklahoma took the lead, it was difficult for the Bulls to catch up because of the array of arms in the Sooner bullpen. They pitched three relievers in the final four innings Wednesday, allowing two runs.
In addition, the Sooners played sound defense, which was evident by the goose egg they posted in the errors column, compared to USF’s two.
“We play better when we’re up, there’s no doubt,” Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway said. “We have some arm strength in our bullpen. And, as you saw today, we can keep rolling out some arm strength and shut it down when we need to.
“All year long, when we’ve had the lead, we’ve won. And even when we were tied against UCLA, the No. 1 team in the country (we won). If it’s tied, we got a shot because of our arm strength and defense.”
Oklahoma put the first runs on the board in the third inning, in which they took a five-run lead. Six consecutive Sooners reached base, with three of them hitting stand-up doubles.
The Bulls stopped the surge by using their bullpen. Redshirt freshman pitcher Matt Stull came in the fourth inning and allowed two runs in four innings. Sophomore Shawn Sanford and freshman Stephen Hunt closed out the eighth and ninth innings, allowing no runs.
“Outstanding,” USF coach Lelo Prado said of the bullpen’s performance. “(Stull is) a young man who can do everything right, and if he continues to pitch like that, he’ll continue to get the ball. Stephen Hunt did a good job and Sanford did a good job. The bullpen was outstanding. We just can’t get down five-nothing.”
USF didn’t have enough firepower in their arsenal to come back five runs because of the youth of the team. Prado put a couple of freshmen and a couple of sophomores in the lineup.
“Since we’re so young, guys start pressing and trying to do too much. We just got to relax and play the game the right way and don’t think that one guy is going to carry us. We need everyone to pitch in,” he said.
The Bulls came close to getting back in the game on several occasions. In the fourth and sixth innings, the players tried to stretch out some extra bags on hits in an attempt to get something going. Redshirt freshman centerfielder Ryan Lockwood got thrown out at home plate on an in the park home run attempt, and junior short stop Addison Maruszak got thrown out at third base.
“We just don’t have the offense right now to be down five-nothing,” Prado said. “You know you’re trying to fight back. I sent Lockwood home on that almost inside the park just to get something going, to get some excitement on our team. They make a great throw, and it’s a bang-bang play.”
The Bulls also edged back and battled in the eighth and ninth innings, showing signs of its spring break resilience, but couldn’t find the final clutch hit.
Junior right fielder Brian Hobbs came up to bat in the ninth inning with two outs and two runners in scoring position. He popped out but told no excuses, and said nothing is different now from play during spring break.
“We’re just lacking key hits,” Hobbs said. “Prime example: I’m up there with runners on second and third and can’t get the key hit to tie the game up. And that’s what it boils down to.”