Bulls lose Merrell and McClanahan, win series at Memphis

Sophomore outfielder Chris Chatfield went 3-for-3 in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, falling a triple shy of the cycle.

Despite playing without leading-hitter Kevin Merrell and losing starting pitcher Shane McClanahan, USF split a doubleheader Sunday at Memphis to win the series. 

Heavy bouts of rain pushed Saturday’s game back twice before it was rescheduled for Sunday morning. Already without Merrell, who is nursing a foot injury, USF had to replace McClanahan (back) after facing just one batter.

Both players are considered day-to-day, and neither has a set timetable for a return, according to USF coach Mark Kingston. 

“I think winning (without Merrell and McClanahan) shows that we’re a complete team, we’ve got a lot of good depth, a lot of guys we have confidence in,” Kingston said. “It’s tough to lose great players, but our guys stepped up in their absence.”

After USF took the first game of the series 4-2 behind 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball from Phoenix Sanders, Kingston was forced to turn to his bullpen early in game two. 

McClanahan pitched four straight balls to open the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, but was removed. Senior Ryan Valdes provided four innings of relief, allowing three hits and a run while striking out four. 

Backed by an explosive day of offense, including a five-RBI game for sophomore outfielder Chris Chatfield, Valdes improved his record to 8-0 in the 11-6 win. 

USF followed up its 11-run performance by opening the second game of Sunday with a first-inning home run from Luke Borders, but nothing else after in the 5-1 loss. 

“We’re disappointed we didn’t get the sweep,” Kingston said. “Once you win the first two, you want to get the sweep, so we’re disappointed we didn’t finish it out. 

“But, in the big picture, we had four road games this week and we won three of them. So, when you win 75 percent of your road games, that’s still very positive.”  

The Bulls return home Wednesday for a 6:30 p.m. game against Stetson before hosting Houston for a three-game series over the weekend at the USF Baseball Stadium.