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Merrell shines as Bulls win two

Michael Farley earned his first win of the season as he struck out seven batters over three innings in USF’s 12-4 win over Alabama State. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

The USF baseball team huddled together after its 12-4 win over Alabama State on Sunday. Immediately after speaking with his team, coach Mark Kingston headed toward his family. 

His children ran onto the field to greet their father with hugs, and then proceeded to cartwheel down the first-base line. His one daughter stayed behind to hold her dad while he spoke with the media. 

“What I told the team is, we played three opponents this year that will be in the NCAA tournament, and we went two-and-one,” Kingston said. “That’s not too bad. Are there things we need to get better at? Yes. I think most Bulls fans, if you look at this weekend and know who our opponents are, (would take two out of three).”

USF (2-1) beat No. 17 Cal State Fullerton 2-1 on Friday, lost against Louisville 7-3 on Saturday and closed its opening weekend with a 12-4 win over Alabama State in Clearwater.

Freshman left-fielder Kevin Merrell went 5-for-12 with four runs over the weekend at Bright House Field. He drew three walks and stole a base. 

“When you’re athletic and you have that type of speed, there are ways to help teams win baseball games,” Kingston said of Merrell. “The things I’m most pleased about right now is he’s taking really good at-bats, which you don’t see from a young — he’s a little bit of a raw — player.”

Merrell earned the leadoff spot in the lineup Sunday, which Kingston said energized the Bulls. 

The Bulls posted four runs in the first. Sophomore pitcher Brandon Lawson allowed three earned runs in the fourth, but the Bulls cushioned their lead, scoring runs in each inning thereafter. 

Pitcher Michael Farley (1-0) relieved Lawson for the fifth inning. The sophomore earned the win, striking out seven over the next three innings. 

The Bulls also broke out to an early lead Saturday with Levi Borders’ two-run homer in the first, but the Cardinals tallied runs over the next three innings, taking the lead for good with a four-run third inning. 

Senior pitcher Casey Mulholland (0-1) allowed four earned runs on seven hits through three innings. Redshirt sophomore Cody Hernandez allowed another two runs in the fourth before redshirt sophomore Tommy Eveld pitched four shutout innings.

“Tommy Eveld’s a guy that just picked up baseball after being off it for about seven years, and that’s pretty impressive,” Kingston said. “When you can pitch four shutout innings against a team that was just in the college World Series — it doesn’t happen very often, so we’re going to build off that.”

Dominant pitching propelled the Bulls on Friday. Junior Jimmy Herget walked four and struck out nine over five innings. The right-hander allowed one run in the third before freshman Joe Cavallaro pitched two shutout innings. 

Cavallaro (1-0) earned the win, as USF scored two runs in the sixth with Luke Borders’ two-RBI single.

“We put really good arms on the field tonight,” Kingston said. “Cavallaro is a freshman — didn’t look like a freshman. That’s what you want to see. What you hope as coaches is if you put them in big situations and show confidence in them, they’ll have confidence in themselves.”