Late Marshall comeback prevents sweep

USF appeared to be heading into this week’s showdown with in-state opponent UCF with a timely three-game sweep in hand.

However, after overwhelming Marshall in the first two games, the Bulls lost the series finale 9-6 by giving away a seemingly comfortable 6-1 seventh-inning lead Sunday at Red McEwen Field.

“It’s very disappointing, the way we finished (the series),” said Bulls coach Lelo Prado. “If they’re not disappointed, they need to go somewhere else. We had momentum. Now, we have to keep fighting to stay above .500.”

During the loss, USF (5-5) committed five errors in the last four innings — after playing error-free Friday and Saturday. Six of Marshall’s nine runs were unearned.

On Sunday, with a runner on second in the ninth inning, USF freshman Sam Mende overthrew first base for what should have been the first out. After USF pitcher Shawn Sanford fouled out Marshall cleanup-hitter Alfredo Brito, Bulls first baseman Brandon Smith couldn’t handle an errant throw by third baseman Jon Koscso, and a run was scored. 

After Marshall loaded the bases, Sanford threw a wild pitch that allowed another run. USF second baseman Peter Brotons committed another error, and Marshall’s Josh Valle scored, allowing the Thundering Herd to take control of the game.

USF pitcher Randy Fontanez remains winless after giving up five runs (three earned) in 7.1 innings.

“Randy pitched well enough to win and Sanford did a great job — we just have to make plays,” Prado said.

USF scored a combined 27 runs to beat Marshall in the first two games. That trend continued for most of Sunday, but Prado said the team’s collapse was disappointing.

“If we’re going to be a great team, we don’t lose,” he said. “There’s nothing more to say.”

Sophomore pitcher Derrick Stultz threw six scoreless innings in the Bulls’ 14-5 win Friday night.

“I just try to throw as hard as I can,” Stultz said. “Coach tells me to keep attacking the zone. That’s what I try to do.”

Stultz is 2-0 with a 1.56 ERA in three starts this year.

Sophomore Junior Carlin continues his scorching pace, going 4-4 Saturday to raise his average to .600.

The Bulls host UCF on Tuesday at 7 p.m.