USF (1-2) opened its season with a victory over No. 6 North Carolina (2-1), but coupled its initial success with two losses to close the weekend.
The Bulls’ first loss was ugly, but an extra-inning shootout on Sunday showed the Bulls can contend with some of the nation’s best teams.
“Obviously, today we fell down,” USF coach Billy Mohl said. “But we put up a big seven-spot to tie it up. It just goes to show the heart of the team.”
The Bulls put together a seven-run rally in the seventh inning against the Tar Heels on Sunday, but failed to complete their comeback in extra-innings, falling 9-8.
A major factor in the Bulls’ loss on Sunday were three errors, including two in the seventh inning, which granted UNC two unearned runs that put the Bulls at a deficit.
“We saw a lot of good things,” Mohl said. “Defensively, though, we need to get a lot better.”
The Bulls responded loudly in the bottom of the seventh.
North Carolina walked designated hitter Alec Wisely, who advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Two batters later, third baseman David Villar hit a double off of the left field wall to score Wisely.
With Villar in scoring position, first baseman Carson Ragsdale stepped up to the plate and hit a towering home run over the left field wall to bring the score to 8-4.
After the Ragsdale homer, the UNC bullpen started to crumble. The Tar Heels brought in three more pitchers in the seventh inning as the Bulls mounted their comeback, batting through their lineup and tying the score at eight apiece.
USF then brought in junior left-handed pitcher Andrew Perez in the eighth inning. Perez pitched two perfect innings to end regulation. In the 10th inning, Perez gave up his first homerun since the 2016 season to UNC shortstop Ike Freeman.
North Carolina called in sophomore Austin Bergner to close the game. The right-handed hurler threw three perfect innings to secure the Tar Heel victory over the Bulls.
“I thought Friday and Sunday those guys competed really well,” Mohl said. “Yesterday, we laid an egg.”
In their game on Saturday, the Bulls faltered from the start. North Carolina scored six runs in the first inning and USF couldn’t overcome their early-game deficit, losing 12-5.
In their home opener Friday night, the Bulls rallied behind redshirt-sophomore Shane McClanahan to secure a 4-3 victory over the Tar Heels.
McClanahan pitched six innings in the Bulls’ 2018 debut and tallied 11 strikeouts, while only allowing three hits.
“I was just trusting the guys behind me, honestly,” McClanahan said Friday. “I was just trying to throw strikes. Its baseball, you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do.”
The Bulls’ victory marked Mohl’s first career win as a head coach.
“It’s awesome,” McClanahan said. “That guy (Mohl) has our back and we have his back, no matter what. We wanted him here, and we got him.”
USF will continue its tough schedule to open the season when it travels to play No. 5 Florida State University on Tuesday.
“We’ve got Florida State on Tuesday,” Mohl said. “Quick turnaround, get a day of rest tomorrow and go to Tallahassee and play the Noles.”
After facing back-to-back top-10 opponents, the next ranked opponent won’t come until April 6 against No. 24 Houston (2-1).