No. 24 USF once again avenged its elimination in the 2017 Gainesville Regional with a 5-3 win against Bethune-Cookman Tuesday night at the USF Baseball Stadium, sweeping the two-game season series against the Wildcats.
After falling behind 1-0 in the third inning after a homer by Bethune-Cookman right fielder Kyle Corbin, USF (27-14, 9-6) came back with two runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning, thanks to RBIs by shortstop Coco Montes and first baseman Duke Stunkel Jr.
“They (Montes and Stunkel Jr.) were really good tonight,” coach Billy Mohl said. “(Montes) has kind of found his groove and Stunkel’s finally starting to turn it on. I’m happy for both those guys.”
Each team scored one run in the fourth inning, followed by a fifth inning that saw the Bulls outscore Bethune-Cookman (17-25, 11-7) 2-1 to round out scoring for the night.
Connor Eason picked up his first win of the season, pitching 1.1 innings of relief of USF starter Baron Stuart. Eason allowed no earned runs on one hit and struck out one batter. Andrew Perez picked up his seventh save of the season, pitching a hitless ninth inning while allowing only one baserunner.
USF used four pitchers out of the bullpen. Eason, Graham Hoffman, Kevin King and Perez combined for 5.1 innings pitched, allowing three hits and only one unearned run.
“I thought they were OK,” Mohl said. “(Hoffman) looked pretty good. I thought (Eason) struggled just a little bit, but he got the job done. It was not our best baseball of the year, but a win’s a win.”
Tuesday’s win marks USF’s second straight against Bethune-Cookman, after defeating the Wildcats 16-1 on February 28 in Daytona Beach. The Bulls and Wildcats met twice in last year’s regional in Gainesville, with the Wildcats ending the Bulls’ season with a 6-4 victory on June 4.
Up next for USF is its final home series of the season. The Bulls take on Memphis Friday-Sunday at the USF Baseball Stadium. Memphis finds itself last in the AAC, having won only one game in conference play.
Despite the opponent’s record, Mohl knows the high stakes of the upcoming series.
“This weekend is no different than last weekend,” Mohl said. “One says UCF, one says Memphis. They’re all important in the race right now.”
In the race for the top record in the AAC, USF finds itself in third place – behind Houston at 10-5 and ECU at 8-4.