Merrell’s two homers power 8-1 win

Junior shortstop Kevin Merrell blasted two homers in USF’s 8-1 win over Villanova on Wednesday night. ORACLE PHOTO/JACKIE BENITEZ

For the 11th straight game, USF baseball dispatched its opposition as it continues to build on the best start in program history. 

Led by six innings of one-run ball by freshman pitcher D.J. Roberts and two homers from shortstop Kevin Merrell, the Bulls trampled Villanova on Wednesday night for an 8-1 victory at the USF Baseball Stadium. 

“Well, I think our team is gaining confidence when every guy we put out there on the mound gets their job done,” USF coach Mark Kingston said. “99 percent of the time, the guys we’re putting out there, whether we ask them for three outs or 15 outs, they’re getting the job done consistently, so I think the team gains a lot of confidence from that.”

Roberts (2-0) held the Wildcats in check all night, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning before allowing the lone run of the night. The freshman ended his night allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out six. 

“Right now, he’s giving you everything you can ask for out of a freshman,” Kingston said. “He doesn’t look like a freshman out there, he kept the ball down in the zone and had good stuff.”

With Villanova (1-10) held off the base paths for most of the night, USF’s offense quickly put the game out of reach. 

Merrell’s first homer of the evening, a three-run shot that ricocheted off the Josephine Ramil Campo Batting Facility, was the first of back-to-back shots by Merrell and second baseman Coco Montes in the bottom of the fourth.

“(Adding power over the offseason) was definitely a focus,” Merrell said. “Not really home runs, more gap-to-gap doubles and triples. But, we got the win tonight. It was a fun night.”

With the Bulls leading 7-1 in the seventh, Merrell launched a ball off the scoreboard over the right field wall to end the scoring. 

After Roberts departed, USF’s bullpen continued to dominate as they have all season, as three relievers combined to allow no base runners while striking out three over the final three innings.

USF (12-1) will get three chances to extend its winning streak when it hosts Valparaiso this weekend at the USF Baseball Stadium.