USF baseball takes series from No. 25 Michigan State

Sunday’s 7-5 win over No. 25 Michigan State included home runs from freshmen Chris Chatfield and Coco Montes. Sophomore Kevin Merrel also scored a run off two hits.  ORACLE PHOTOS/JACOB HOAG

After scoring three runs in their first two games against No. 25 Michigan State, the USF offense overwhelmed the Spartans with four home runs in a 7-5 win Sunday to steal the three-game series at the USF Baseball Stadium. 

USF senior catcher Levi Borders started the offensive barrage with a three-run homer with two outs in the first inning to give the Bulls a 3-1 lead. Freshman outfielder Chris Chatfield followed up with an inside-the-park home run in the next at-bat to stretch USF’s lead to four.

“It’s a good series for us,” USF coach Mark Kingston said. “After losing convincingly Friday night, we could’ve just let it affect our confidence, affect how we went about our business, and it did not. We just won a series against a top-25 team, I think it means a lot.”

The Bulls held their first-inning lead for the remainder of the game, but never pulled too far ahead, with the Spartans scoring twice in both the second and sixth innings. 

USF (12-9) stayed ahead with two more home runs, with one from freshman shortstop Coco Montes in the second and another from designated hitter Joe Genord in the fourth.

Down two in the ninth, Michigan State had a chance to get even with the bases loaded and two outs, but USF junior closer Tommy Eveld secured the save, getting MSU freshman Marty Bechina to fly out.

After a 12-4 loss to No. 12 Florida State on March 8 and an 11-1 loss to the Spartans (14-3) on Friday, the Bulls had yet to show they had what it took to compete with top-ranked talent. 

But USF bounced back behind 7 1/3 innings of shutout pitching from Brandon Lawson Saturday and muscled out seven runs Sunday to win its first series against a ranked opponent since April of 2013. 

“I liked the fact that our team really wanted to win this series, even after Friday,” Kingston said. “Sometimes guys can fake enthusiasm. I just thought our team was really into the game, both the guys in the game and also those that were not. That has a lot to do with the success we had and how we battled back through adversity.”