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Rivalry rears head in series loss

 

Tensions ran high between USF and UCF in this weekend’s series, in which the Bulls lost two of three games. 

Despite trash talking between the rivals after Saturday’s game and the Knights leaving the dugout after the fifth inning Sunday when UCF coach Terry Rooney argued with the umpire, Rooney dismissed any animosity.

“I think competition is a great thing,” Rooney said. “It’s a situation where it’s two great programs out there competing. The bottom line is both of these programs have tremendous respect for each other.”

USF (18-14, 5-4) dropped Sunday’s rubber game, 6-3, but USF coach Lelo Prado said Tommy Peterson pitched well in his first start. The redshirt sophomore, who was out last season after having Tommy John surgery, allowed two earned runs on four hits with two strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. 

After a three-up, three-down first inning, Peterson (2-1) surrendered a one-out, two-run homer by UCF shortstop Tommy Williams in the second. 

Williams later hit another two-run shot in the sixth, which landed across the street in the bushes by the entrance of Corbett Stadium. Reliever Brandon Lawson surrendered the homer. 

“We tried to pitch around (Williams) twice and we made mistakes and threw it inside,” Prado said. “(We) tried to sneak a fastball in there and the guy hit it out – credit to him.”

The Knights (20-13, 8-1) scored two more in the sixth, and the Bulls cut the deficit to 6-3 with two runs in the bottom frame, but no runs scored thereafter.

Williams also homered Saturday, but it wasn’t enough as the Bulls beat the Knights, 4-2, behind pitcher Casey Mulholland.

Mulholland (3-0) tossed 120 pitches for his second complete game of the season. He allowed two earned runs on 10 hits, walking one and striking out six in the 2-hour and 32-minute matchup.

“I’m not throwing the ball exactly the way I want to yet,” Mulholland said. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so there’s always something to work on, something to get better at, but I’m
competing.”

The Bulls snapped their
three-game losing streak and UCF’s 10-game winning streak.

USF took a 3-0 lead in the second. With one out, Levi Borders, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, doubled down the left-field line. Luke Borders then drove him in with a base hit up the middle. 

Jumping on the first pitch, Zac Gilcrease followed with a triple to right-center to score Borders. Gilcrease, who went 2-for-3, hustled home on a wild pitch by UCF starter Tanner Olson, who took the loss after allowing four earned runs on six hits in three innings.

The Knights posted a run in the third, but the Bulls extended their lead in the fourth with first baseman Lawrence Pardo’s leadoff home run – his first of the season. 

Mulholland pitched a complete game Saturday, and USF
sophomore Jimmy Herget was one out shy of tossing one Friday as the Bulls lost 2-0.

Herget (4-4) allowed two earned runs on five hits through 8 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out nine.

“Jimmy pitched his tail off and deserved to win,” Prado said. “It’s a shame. He’s done that for two years now and (the offense) just has to do a better job.”

Herget allowed an RBI single in the first and another in the ninth, but couldn’t get any run support, as the UCF starter Eric Skoglund and closer Zach Rodgers blanked the Bulls, allowing six hits between them. 

The Bulls travel to Philadelphia for a three-game conference series against Temple. Friday’s game is set for 7 p.m., Saturday’s at 3 p.m. and Sunday’s finale is at noon.