Pitching struggles for USF baseball in 13-6 loss

USF coach Mark Kingston finds no answers in his bullpen on Tuesday night with his staff allowing 13 runs.

No matter which pitcher USF coach Mark Kingston called upon Tuesday night, Florida Gulf Coast University continued to hit, scoring runs off four different Bulls pitchers on its way to a 13-6 rout of USF at the USF Baseball Stadium.

Freshman Andrew Perez started his first game as a Bull and couldn’t escape the first inning cleanly, surrendering three runs after retiring the first two batters.

“(The pitchers) need to get better,” Kingston said. “You can’t give up as many runs as we did tonight and not think you have to get better. The concern is we have to get better, all of us.”

Perez would allow one more run to score before eventually being pulled after the third inning, with Kingston opting to bring in freshman Dylan Burns.

Burns lasted two innings, allowing another four runs to cross home before his night came to an end, putting USF in an 8-0 deficit.

“Well (coach Mohl) will get back to work with the pitchers, obviously that’s not acceptable,” Kingston said. “We needed to be better in all areas tonight, not just pitching. Our defense made two errors and I thought we should have scored a lot more than six runs on eight hits tonight. I just told the guys it was one collective not very good night for us.”

The Bulls’ offense broke through in the fifth inning when sophomore Kevin Merrell hit a three-run homer, the first of his USF career. The Bulls followed up with three more runs in the sixth, but wouldn’t score again for the remainder of the game.

In an effort to jump-start the offense, Kingston took out freshmen Michael Koenig and Garrett Zech for junior Andres Leal and junior Luke Borders.

“I wanted to get some veterans some at-bats, maybe spark us,” Kingston said. “I thought (Andres Leal) did exactly what we thought he would do, start a rally. We were down by three at that time. Let a veteran get in there, get on base as a leadoff and he did exactly that. What followed behind that is not quite what we wanted.”

Aside from the 16 hits surrendered by USF pitchers, an additional 10 batters reached base on walks.

Junior pitcher Brad Labozzetta has had the most glaring issues with his command of the strike zone over his first two appearances, walking four batters in less than two innings Saturday and walking another three in 1 1/3 innings Tuesday.

“(Labozzetta) just needs to get his mechanics in order so he throws strikes,” Kingston said. “We watched him all spring keep the ball down in the zone and ever since he’s been pitching in games, the ball has been up and he needs to get that figured out with coach Mohl and I think he will.”

USF (2-2) will have a midweek break before continuing its homestand Friday when it begins a three-game series against Eastern Michigan