The Bulls walked off the field as victors for the 18th game in a row Sunday afternoon at the USF Baseball Stadium, hardly able to contain their excitement.
USF slugged its way to a 14-2 finish over Harvard on Sunday to complete the four-game sweep of the Crimson and extend the hottest start in program history.
“It’s just having fun, we’re all having fun,” sophomore third baseman David Villar said. “We try not to think about the streak, it’s in the back of all of our minds. But everyone is just having fun; the pitchers, the hitters, we’re all meshing and having a great time.”
But the Bulls haven’t forgotten what it’s like to struggle through a season.
At this point last season, USF was 11-9 and on its way to a 24-33 record and the bottom of the AAC standings.
“We’re a year older, a year healthier, we have another recruiting class on this team,” USF coach Mark Kingston said. “It’s a combination of everything. I think guys were anxious to get back on the field this year and make things right because we felt that last year nothing seemed to go our way. So, we worked real hard in the offseason and you’re seeing the results of the hard work that’s been put in by coaches and players.”
Most of the starters on that 2016 team were freshmen, many of which have progressed enough to give Kingston the talent and depth he needs to put together a monthlong winning streak.
Rather than going with his typical Sunday starter, Peter Strzelecki, Kingston opted to save the talented junior for a mid-week game against a much tougher opponent in the No. 21 FGCU Eagles.
With a seemingly endless bullpen of arms, Kingston used six relievers to get the Bulls through the finale against Harvard.
Freshman Collin Sullivan earned the starting nod, but pitched just two innings before he was relieved by fellow freshman Noah Yager. The left-hander had the longest outing of the day, lasting three innings.
Backed by 13 hits, including a grand slam by Villar, four other relievers pitched one inning each over the final stretch of the game as the Bulls cruised to a 12-run win.
USF (19-1) and freshman starting pitcher D.J. Roberts will look to push the winning streak to 19 games when the Bulls host the University of North Florida on Tuesday night.
“It’s been huge, we’re trying to show the world we’re one of the best teams in the country,” Villar said. “We’re playing with confidence. We want to show everyone, because last year was a down year and everyone was writing us off, we want to be one of the best teams in the country.”