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USF takes 2-of-3 from UConn in conference opener

Shane McClanahan allowed an earned run for the first time in 2018 on Friday.
ORACLE PHOTO/THOMAS PRETTYMAN

USF (18-7, 2-1) took two of three from UConn (11-9, 1-2) over the weekend at the USF Baseball Stadium to open AAC play.

After dropping the first game of the series 6-4 on Friday, the Bulls were able to bounce back with an 8-4 win on Saturday and a walkoff 3-2 victory Sunday. The series win was USF’s first against UConn since 2015.

Both victories saw the Bulls come from behind in the later stages of the game.

“It shows the resiliency of our team,” coach Billy Mohl said. “We’re never out of a game and preach that all the time with the offense that we have and all the leaders.”

UConn would open the scoring Sunday in a bases loaded situation in the seventh inning on a throwing error by third-baseman David Villar, allowing UConn’s Zac Susi to score. A double-play ball would record the first two outs of the inning, but also drove in the second run of the game for the Huskies.

Junior Joe Genord hit a game-tying homer in the bottom of the eighth inning. The homer capped off a weekend that saw the USF first-baseman drive in four RBIs, including the eventual winning run on Saturday night.

Senior Duke Stunkel Jr. drove in junior Tyler Dietrich in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the game and the series for the Bulls.

The Bulls also had to battle back on Saturday. USF fell behind 2-0 in the top of the second before plating two runs of their own thanks to RBIs by junior Coco Montes and Stunkel Jr., only to surrender the lead in the very next inning. UConn would tack on another run in the fifth, and the Bulls found themselves behind by two runs again.

USF took its first lead of the series in the sixth thanks to an inning that saw the Bulls bat around while scoring six runs. After junior Garrett Zech scored on a Montes double-play ball, a Genord double would drive in Villar and Stunkel Jr. to tie and take the lead for the Bulls.

USF would tack on two more runs that inning and an additional run in the seventh to help senior right-handed pitcher Peter Strzelecki get his fourth win of the season. Strzelecki went six innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and struck out five batters.

“(Strzelecki) went out there and he battled,” Mohl said. “He didn’t have his best stuff… but he went out there and battled. And that’s what you want a senior to go out and do… and he was good enough to get the W.”

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Shane McClanahan took the loss Friday. The six runs allowed in the second inning represented the first earned runs allowed by the Bulls’ ace this season. 

“It wasn’t the Shane we’re used to seeing,” Mohl said. “He had the adrenaline going a little too much… In this league, you’ve got to throw something else beside the fastball.”