Bulls rally for Kingston’s 200th win

Coach Mark Kingston earned his 200th career win (27th at USF) Wednesday night. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

The Bulls rallied for a 7-5 win over Bethune-Cookman at the USF Baseball Stadium on Wednesday night, which marked coach Mark Kingston’s 200th career win. 

Kingston emphasized his focus is on the Bulls rather than his milestone.

“Right now, it’s about winning one game at a time for this team,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”

The Wildcats (15-31) struck early by capitalizing on a two-out error. Catcher Zach Olszewski hit a three-run homer to left-center to put Bethune-Cookman on the board. 

But the Bulls (27-14-1) didn’t let that affect their mentality.

“We try to stay flat-line and keep the energy throughout the game,” first baseman Buddy Putnam said. “Up by 10, down by 10, we play the game the exact same way. We really just try to keep that steady ship, just keep attacking the game.”

A two-out Luke Borders’ hit scored a run for the Bulls in the third, but USF’s offense didn’t pick up until the fifth inning.

“For whatever reason, we get off to slow starts offensively in these midweek games,” Kingston said. “At some point, we get more comfortable, start to settle in and then we start to take really good at-bats.”

Small ball was key to the Bulls’ three-run fifth inning. A hit-by-pitch, walk and single loaded the bases for Levi Borders, who drove in two on a single through the left side. 

Then, with two on and two outs, Putnam drove in the go-ahead run with another single off pitcher Joseph Calamita. 

“(Calamita) had been a little bit sporadic coming into that at-bat, so we had a little bit more of a patient approach,” Putnam said. “I was able to get myself into a hitter’s count, where you can sit on a fastball and put a good swing on it.”

USF sprinkled three more runs over the final innings. Austin Lueck scored on a wild pitch, and Levi Borders doubled to put the Bulls up 6-2 in the sixth. Kevin Merrell later scored on an error in the eighth. 

Bethune-Cookman tallied two more runs, but closer Tommy Peterson picked up his 13th save after tossing 1 2/3 innings.

The Bulls faced seven Wildcat pitchers, but Juan Pizarro (0-2) took the loss after allowing three earned runs in one inning. 

Ryan Valdes (5-1) earned the win after allowing three runs (none earned) on five hits with six strikeouts. 

USF hosts Houston for a three-game series beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m.