Bulls swept by No. 1 Gators

The USF baseball team simply seemed outmatched as it was swept by No. 1 Florida on opening weekend in Gainesville for the second consecutive season.

A combination of stellar pitching from the Gators and lackluster hitting by the Bulls means USF will wait until the second weekend of the season to try to pick up its first win.

“I’m a little disappointed we didn’t compete better. I still think we’re going to be a good team, but we’ve got to do a better job of competing,” coach Lelo Prado said. “The things we messed up is all stuff we can fix.”

Starting pitcher Randy Fontanez lasted just 4.2 innings for the Bulls (0-3) on Friday night in a 7-2 loss. It was the first time in 34 starts that Fontanez failed to complete at least five innings. He allowed six earned runs and struck out just three.

On the other hand, Florida (3-0) starter Brian Johnson, who played first base Saturday and served as designated hitter Sunday, pitched six innings, allowing just two hits and striking out six Bulls.

USF’s Saturday starter, Andrew Barbosa, fared much better and, if not for missed opportunities by Bulls’ hitters, could have been in line for a win.

Barbosa allowed just one earned run in six innings of work and struck out five Gators.

Trailing 2-1 in the top of the fourth inning, USF senior left fielder Junior Carlin hit into a fielder’s choice that ended the inning, stranding two runners on base.

In the top of the seventh inning with the bases loaded, junior shortstop Sam Mende grounded into a fielder’s choice at shortstop, ending a potential rally for USF. The Bulls stranded 10 runners on base in the game and lost 4-1.

Sunday’s game was similar to Friday’s in that USF never seemed to have a chance.

Gators shortstop Nolan Fontana, who went 9 of 12 over the weekend, scored in the bottom of the first and Florida never looked back.

UF starter Karsten Whitson pitched five stellar innings and allowed just one hit in the series finale. The freshman recorded nine strikeouts and, at one point, retired 11 consecutive batters before walking Carlin in the fifth.

USF only managed four hits on the day, with no base runners even reaching second base as the Bulls lost 5-0.

Mende, who went 4 for 12 on the weekend, had three hits Sunday.

“The whole season it seemed like we weren’t on point as we had been all fall. We’ve got three days before our next game, so we’ve just got to erase this series and move on,” Mende said.

Though the Bulls are winless on the season, Prado said he believes there’s no shame in being swept by the No. 1 team in the country.

“I feel good about it, but the guys in uniform have to feel good about it,” he said. “Like I told them, if at the end of the year we’re in a regional, we’re going to be at Florida, Florida State or Miami, so you’ve got to get used to these surroundings.

“Hopefully, we’ll get three good days of practice and open up that new stadium with a lot of energy and ready to play.”

USF opens its new stadium Friday at 7 p.m. when it hosts Elon. The Bulls also play Saturday at 7 p.m. before closing the series Sunday at 1 p.m.