USF baseball holds off Liberty for series win

Sophomore pitcher Joe Cavallaro pitched six innings in Sunday’s win, allowing only one run.

If the USF baseball team proved anything in its opening series of the season against Liberty, it’s that the Bulls thrive under pressure.

Both of USF’s home wins this weekend came down to the final out. Luke Maglich’s walk-off RBI single sealed the first victory Friday night, and catcher Luke Borders’ throw to prevent Liberty outfielder Andrew Yacyk from stealing second held off the Flames’ late rally in a 6-5 win Sunday afternoon. 

“Tough games help build the character of the team,” USF coach Mark Kingston said. “When you get later into the season and you’re playing great teams and the games are all going to be close, you’ve been in those situations. Guys know what to do, they know how to handle themselves.”

After being shut out Saturday night in a 4-0 loss, the Bulls’ offense responded with six runs on eight hits Sunday — powered by sophomore first baseman Duke Stunkel’s three-run homer in the fifth inning. 

“I was pleased that we showed speed and power today,” Kingston said. “That’s something we really try to recruit and develop. We stole bases today; we homered.”

Sophomore pitcher Joe Cavallaro had arguably the most complete performance of a USF starter this weekend, pitching six innings and allowing one run on five hits for the win on Sunday. 

“I always want to keep going,” Cavallaro said. “I don’t want to ever lose the ball, but coach told me I did what I needed to do so I turned it to the bullpen and they kept us in the game. It wasn’t ideal, but they worked hard and did the best they could and they did well.”

Pitchers Mark Savarese and Tommy Eveld finished off the game for USF (2-1), each allowing a two-run homer. Eveld pitched the final two innings, earning his first save of the season.

“It was great to see Tommy Eveld get his first save today,” Kingston said. “His stuff was really good. He left the one ball up for the home run, but his stuff was very good and you could tell when the game got to one run, he got even better. 

“You can’t teach that. A guy either has it or doesn’t and he obviously can get even better and turn it up a notch when the game gets close.”

The Bulls will have an off-day Monday before trying to build on their series win when they host Florida Gulf Coast University (0-3) on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. 

“I thought that was a good weekend of growth for us,” Kingston said. “We had two tough-fought wins. We had the tough loss last night we had to bounce back from, but I saw a lot of guys stepping up for us and that’s what we’re going to need. 

“It was a really good test, probably a better test than most people would appreciate, and I’m really pleased we came out of here with a series win.”