USF moves on with Borders out for the season

Senior Levi Borders was shut down for the remainder of the season after the emergence of a bacterial infection. Borders, who batted .241 in 16 games this season, is eligible for an NCAA medical hardship waiver.

Though USF was able to take the series against Dartmouth with a 4-0 win on Sunday, earlier in the weekend it suffered arguably its biggest loss of the season. USF learned Friday that it would be without senior catcher Levi Borders for the remainder of the season due to a bacterial infection. 

Borders, a unanimous first-team All-AAC selection in 2015, was hitting .241 with three home runs and 10 RBIs prior to being shut down.

“(Borders is) a very important part of our team,” coach Mark Kingston said after Friday’s 4-0 shutout. “He’s a leader, he’s a power hitter at a premium position, so we’ll feel the loss. But it just seems like this is the kind of year where a lot is going against us. But our kids are playing hard and guys are stepping into new roles and, so far, they’re performing.”

Borders, who only played in 16 games this season, is eligible for a NCAA hardship waiver for this season while he undergoes treatment for the infection. He’s expected to return to the Bulls in the 2017 season. 

Despite Borders’ absence, USF (14-11) was able to bounce back from Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Big Green with its second 4-0 shutout win of the weekend.

Led by Borders’ replacement, freshman catcher Tyler Dietrich (2-for-3 with two RBIs), as well as senior outfielder Luke Maglich (2-for-4, SB), the Bulls put together enough offense to back starter Joe Cavallaro, who combined with closer Tommy Eveld to pitch a one-hitter.

“We’re doing a very average job of getting guys in from third base with one out, so when that’s the case, we’ll look for other ways to try to manufacture runs,” Kingston said. “Steals and bunts were what presented themselves today and we took advantage of it.”

Cavallaro was in control from the first pitch, holding Dartmouth hitless through the first five innings. Aside from two errors in the field for USF, the sophomore pitcher only allowed two batters to reach base in seven innings of work, one by a single and one from a walk. 

“His stuff is good,” Kingston said. “When he’s ahead of hitters and not giving them free offense, he does really well. His opponents’ batting average is very low, so the key for him is throwing strikes and he did that today.”

Eveld finished off the final two frames, striking out four while consistently throwing up to 92 mph.

Aside from Cavallaro’s performance Sunday, starters Phoenix Sanders and Brandon Lawson pitched gems of their own over the weekend. 

Sanders was dominant in a complete-game shutout Friday night where he only needed 92 pitches to finish the game. Lawson followed suit on Saturday, limiting Dartmouth to one run on three hits over seven innings, but took the loss in the 1-0 defeat.

“I think any team in the country would be happy with giving up one run in 27 innings,” Kingston said. “Our pitching has taken a big step this year especially considering the setbacks we’ve had, so you’ve got to tip your cap to our pitching. They’ve done a really good job and now it’s time for our hitters to catch up.”

The Bulls’ win Sunday marks the sixth-consecutive series win to start the season, a new school record, but Kingston said the team is still very much a work in progress. 

“It says we’re decent,” Kingston said. “We’re not any better, we’re not any worse than that. We’re a decent team. A lot of days, we can pitch with just about anyone we play, but this team is not where we want it to be so we have to keep working hard to reach that level.”

USF will host Stetson on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the USF Baseball Stadium for the last game before conference play starts next weekend.