With all four games decided by a combined total of five runs, starting pitcher Matt Reed helped South Florida avoid another losing series with a stellar pitching performance Sunday.
Reed lasted eight scoreless innings, allowing USF (9-11) to escape with a narrow 1-0 victory over Bethune-Cookman University at the USF Baseball Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats and Bulls split the four-game series 2-2.
The first two games of the series were played at Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach on Thursday and Friday, before the site switched to Tampa for the final two.
Alex Mendez hit a fly ball out to left field in the ninth inning Thursday night with the potential game-tying run on first base, ending a 4-3 loss.
Senior starting pitcher Kyle Eastham was charged with the loss in that game after allowing three earned runs, the first he has allowed in three starts this season.
An offensive explosion helped the Bulls win an 11-9 slugfest Friday night. Shortstop Sam Mende started the scoring with an RBI triple to right field in the bottom of the first inning for the first of seven runs the Bulls would score before the fourth inning. USF had only managed to score seven runs twice this season prior to Friday.
But as the team switched to their hometown venue, the Bulls lost their offensive momentum.
After scoring in the bottom of the first inning Saturday, the Bulls’ bats went cold again. They were held scoreless for the final nine innings of a ten-inning 2-1 loss. Starting pitcher Randy Fontanez lasted seven innings, striking out eight and allowing just one run, but received a no-decision.
Fontanez is 1-2 on the season, but has received abysmal run support in his starts. In his two losses and Saturday’s no-decision, the Bulls scored just three runs total.
In danger of dropping the series Sunday, Reed put on another dominant performance to help the Bulls achieve a split.
In his eight innings, Reed allowed just five hits and managed to get himself out of serious jams in the fourth and eighth innings.
Bethune-Cookman left fielder D.J. Leonard led off the top of the fourth inning with a single to left field. The next batter, Alejandro Sanchez, attempted to bunt Leonard to second base, but an Andrew Longley throwing error resulted in Wildcats on first and third bases with no outs.
Reed got out of the inning via a strikeout of designated hitter Ryan Durrence, sandwiched by pop-ups to second base and left field.
In the eighth inning, the Wildcats again had a runner reach third base safely with just one out, before a strikeout and pop-fly to third baseman Jonathan Koscso allowed the Bulls to escape the danger – a situation Reed said helped sharpen his focus.
“It’s maybe a bad thing, but I get a little more focused when a runner gets to scoring position,” Reed said. “I kind of bear down more. I might have to do that every time so that they don’t get to third, but I bear down and make sure I execute my pitch.”
South Florida will travel to Fort Myers on Tuesday for a meeting with Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles beat USF 3-2 in Tampa on March 8.