Bullpen lets series sweep slip away in 8-7 loss to St. Joseph’s

Senior catcher Levi Borders’ two-run home run in the fifth inning stretched the Bulls’ lead to five before squandering it in a 8-7 loss to St. Joseph’s on Sunday. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/JACKIE BENITEZ

Leading St. Joseph’s 6-0 heading into the sixth inning Sunday, USF looked poised to complete its first three-win weekend of the season.

However, the Hawks (4-3) would score eight runs over the next two innings to put the game just out of reach for the Bulls, winning 8-7 at the USF Baseball Stadium. 

“We had one bad inning where we gave up a bunch of runs because we walked a lot of guys,” USF coach Mark Kingston said. “It’s that simple. I think we scored enough. We should have scored a lot more than we did; we had plenty of opportunities.”

USF sophomore pitcher Joe Cavallaro allowed three runs over six innings while striking out a career-high 10 batters, but the bullpen was unable to hold the lead. 

Three walks and an error by USF (6-5) in the seventh aided the Hawks in scoring five runs and taking control of the lead for good. 

“We have to have guys when they get their opportunity to go on the mound, every guy that goes out there has to be able to throw strikes,” Kingston said.

Aside from two innings Sunday, USF held St. Joseph’s offense in check for the majority of the series, outscoring the Hawks 20-6 in the first two games.

USF junior pitcher Phoenix Sanders limited St. Joseph’s to two hits over four innings while striking out six Friday night, but he was pulled from the game early due to a blood blister on his pitching hand. 

“At that point, he wanted to continue,” Kingston said Friday. “He said, ‘Coach, I can throw off-speed pitches.’ But we’re in the business of making good decisions for our players, and at that point, it’s not worth risking it. Sometimes you can overcompensate and then something else goes wrong.”

Even with the series win, Kingston said he isn’t pleased with his team at this point in the season. 

“This isn’t anywhere close to where we want this team to be, but it is what it is,” Kingston said. “I don’t fault our attitude or our effort today, I thought that was absolutely fine. As I told the team, we need more guys than what we have right now stepping up and showing that they can play well at this level.”

The Bulls will host No. 14 Florida State (8-3) Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the USF Baseball Stadium.