Three separate weather delays weren’t enough to cool USF bats in a 10-5 win Saturday at soggy Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville.
Needing a win to avoid being swept after losing the first two games of the series, 6-4 and 7-2, a seven-run, weather-interrupted fifth inning in the series finale propelled the Bulls (19-20, 8-7) to overpower the Cardinals (22-17, 8-7).
After allowing one run in the bottom of the first inning in the series opener Thursday night, USF ace Randy Fontanez settled down, retiring 12 consecutive Cardinals batters at one point. He returned to pitch the seventh with a 3-1 lead, but didn’t make it out of the inning after Louisville exploded for five runs.
USF catcher Daniel Rockhold played for the first time in 29 games since being hit by a pitch that injured his hand March 4. He was in the lineup as the designated hitter and went 0-for-4, though he collected an RBI with a groundout in the eighth inning.
Yet another five-run inning doomed the Bulls to defeat Friday night. With the game tied at 1-1 in the fourth inning, the Cardinals posted five runs to force USF starter Kyle Eastham out of the game. Relievers Zach Pietrzyk and Janick Serrallonga combined to pitch 4.2 innings, allowing one run. Serrallonga, a left-handed freshman, had his longest outing of the season, pitching three shutout innings, yielding two hits and striking out two.
Of USF’s seven hits on the night, six came from the top two batters in the lineup, third baseman Jonathan Koscso and left fielder Junior Carlin. Koscso went 3-for-5 with an RBI, while Carlin went 3-for-4 with a walk.
After a strong offensive game the previous night, Carlin got the ball as Saturday’s starting pitcher, in place of Matt Reed, who had started a few series finales in recent weekends. It was only Carlin’s second start of the season.
Carlin helped his case in the first inning with a single through the right side, extending his hitting streak to 19 games. He scored on first baseman Todd Brazeal’s RBI later in the inning.
Louisville evened the game in the bottom of the first inning and took a 3-1 lead with a pair of runs in the third off Reed, who replaced Carlin after two innings.
With one out in the bottom of the fourth, rain forced the umpires to suspend the game. The delay lasted only nine minutes, but it was the first in a series of delays that extended the game.
Junior shortstop Sam Mende, who went 4-for-6 with three RBIs on the day, tied the game in the fifth inning with a two-run home run, but USF was far from finished in what turned into a seven-run inning that took more than two hours to play due to rain.
Between the game’s second and third delay, only six pitches were thrown, but one of them broke the game wide open for USF. Junior catcher Andrew Longley picked up four RBIs with a grand slam to give the Bulls a lead they didn’t relinquish.
It was the first grand slam by a Bulls’ batter since fellow catcher Rockhold hit one against Rutgers on April 16, 2010. In all, USF posted a season-high 18 hits Saturday to avoid being swept.
Reed picked up the win, while senior Kevin Quackenbush pitched 2.2 innings to collect the save, his longest outing of the season.
The Bulls end the road trip when they travel to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field to face Miami on Wednesday at 6 p.m. USF beat the Hurricanes 4-2 March 1 at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.