Bulls strike out on chance to beat Florida Gulf Coast

After failing to score for the first eight innings, a late rally just wasn’t enough for USF on Tuesday night.

With an undefeated week behind it and No. 1 University of Florida visiting today, the Bulls (5-6) hoped to continue building momentum with a win against Florida Gulf Coast.

But it didn’t happen, and the Bulls have only themselves to blame after allowing the Eagles to leave the new USF Baseball Stadium as 3-2 winners.

“We didn’t have no kind of intensity in the first five or six innings of the ballgame,” coach Lelo Prado said. “It’s unacceptable. That can’t happen.”

It took more than three-and-a-half innings for either offense to muster a hit, with USF first baseman Todd Brazeal’s blooper to shallow left field being the first of the night.

USF would strand three runners on base in that inning after freshman designated hitter Jimmy Falla struck out to end the inning. That trend continued with the Bulls leaving 14 men on base. USF left three more runners on base in the fourth and two each in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings. Eagles pitchers collaborated for 14 strikeouts on the night, six of which would end innings.

USF starter Matt Reed again put the Bulls in a position to win with a strong performance for the second consecutive week. Reed pitched 7.1 innings, surrendering just six hits and three earned runs.

“Reed gave us a chance to win,” Prado said, “but you can’t turn on that switch in the ninth inning.”

The Bulls trailed by three runs heading into the bottom of the ninth when leadoff hitter Jonathan Koscso was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game. Left fielder Junior Carlin then drew a walk to force FGCU’s closer out of the game without recording a single out.

With two runners on and no outs, shortstop Sam Mende struck out for the fourth consecutive at-bat. Brazeal got the rally going with an RBI single to center field which was immediately followed by an RBI single by right fielder James Ramsay that put the potential game-tying run on second base.

Catcher Andrew Longley got under a pitch and flew out to center field and Chad Taylor hit into a fielder’s choice to end the game.

USF hosts the Gators tonight at 7. Florida swept USF to open the season.

“We’ve got 24 hours to get it ready for tomorrow, and if we don’t, Florida will definitely abuse us,” Prado said.

Florida also lost Tuesday night, dropping a surprise 7-0 decision to Georgia Southern. Prado said he is uncertain of who will get the start tonight. No. 1 starter Randy Fontanez is sick, while No. 2 starter Andrew Barbosa is out indefinitely with a lingering arm injury.