Bulls’ bats come to life in series sweep of Toledo

USF baseball has relied on its pitching and defense for most of its 10 wins, but the Bulls’ offense led the team to a series sweep of Toledo this weekend.

As USF coach Mark Kingston has iterated throughout the beginning of 2017, USF baseball is built on pitching and defense. 

But Sunday, the Bulls needed some help from its offense to cap off the sweep with a 6-3 win over Toledo at the USF Baseball Stadium. 

“It wasn’t our best day all around,” Kingston said. “Four errors, which is almost as many as we’ve had the entire year, so we just chalk that up to being a little bit of a fluke. But, I told the guys, ‘When you’re a good team, you can have some days where you don’t play your best, you’re a little more sloppy than normal, and you still find a way to win.’ That’s what we did today.”

The Bulls opened the scoring with back-to-back two-out hits from Garrett Zech and Kevin Merrell in the second inning, but the lead wouldn’t last long. 

Junior pitcher Peter Strzelecki ran into trouble in the third inning, as he allowed three runs to score in an inning in which he walked two batters, gave up two singles and threw two wild pitches. 

He was eventually pulled after just 3 2/3 innings, marking the shortest outing by a weekend starter this season. 

Following his departure, two more two-out RBI hits from Zech and Merrell in the fourth gave USF the lead back for good. 

Even though the Bulls’ offense produced six runs Sunday and 12 in a win Saturday night, both Merrell and Kingston said it still needs to improve. 

“Pitching and defense wins championships, there’s no doubt about that,” Merrell said. “Our hitting does need to improve, and we showed signs (Saturday) night. We’ve got a lot of good hitters on this team, so it’s going to come around.”

With Strzelecki out of the game, relief pitchers Noah Yager, Michael Farley and closer Andrew Perez held the Rockets to three hits, two walks and no runs while combining for nine strikeouts over the final 5 1/3 innings.

“(The added bullpen depth is) night and day,” Kingston said. “We’re able to use guys in good roles for them and not ask too much of them, so they’ve all taken to their role and they’ve been outstanding.”

Though Kingston said the Bulls won despite their sloppy play on Sunday, the team’s nine game winning streak remains intact and will be tested twice this week as USF hosts Jacksonville on Tuesday and Villanova on Wednesday.