TALLAHASSEE — Though it’s still early in the season, it’s pretty hard to deny that USF baseball (2-2) isn’t where it wanted to be from an offensive standpoint.
The day after recording only two hits against Marist — though in a 4-2 victory — the Bulls put up seven hits and drew three walks in USF’s 5-1 loss to Florida A&M (1-0) on Monday at Moore-Kittles Field. However, all seven hits were singles and USF ended up stranding nine runners.
“Obviously we’re struggling offensively right now,” coach Billy Mohl said. “We are in a huge funk. … They had three extra-base hits, we had zero.
“They’re hitting the ball hard, they’re just hanging up in the air. This is a big park — 410 ft. to dead center, and they’ve got a pretty athletic outfield. Baseball’s cruel like that sometimes.”
The only run USF scored came off an error by FAMU shortstop Ryan Coscarella, which allowed freshman outfielder Dontae Mitchell — who had singled then advanced on back-to-back sacrifice bunts — to score. Other than the unearned run, FAMU starter Josh Hancock threw six innings, allowing six hits and striking out three on the way to his first win of the season.
The Rattlers didn’t wait as long to strike, though. Tucker Rayburn homered with two out in the bottom of the first while an RBI triple from Seyjuan Lawrence brought home FAMU’s second run.
That’s where things stayed until the fifth, when redshirt sophomore Joe Sanchez, who came on in relief of starter Baron Stuart, gave up a 3-RBI triple that dropped in between freshman Carmine Lane in left and Mitchell in center.
Stuart went 4.2 innings, allowing four earned runs — three coming on the triple given up by Sanchez — while striking out seven on his way to his first loss of 2020.
“He didn’t quite look like himself, but he battled,” Mohl said. “We’re an out away of getting out of that unscathed. Unfortunately, we had a little freshman miscommunication out there.”
Bulls pitching combined for 14 strikeouts, which was a bright spot for Mohl.
“You have to be happy with the pitching,” Mohl said. “That’s going to be the strength of this team for the next few weeks — at least until these guys can get out of their funk.”
An even brighter spot was the return of Graham Hoffman . The redshirt sophomore missed all but one game in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery. In his return, Hoffman pitched one inning, striking out three and allowing just an infield hit.
“We missed him last year,” Mohl said. “He’s fully healthy, came out, punched [out] the side. … Another arm to have in the stable back there.”
Having that extra arm might come in handy almost immediately as USF plays its fifth game in as many days Tuesday when it faces No. 12 FSU at 6 p.m. in the capital of Florida. It will very likely be a bullpen day against the Seminoles.
“We’re going to have all hands on deck, see how guys feel,” Mohl said. “It’s early in the season. I’m not going to put anybody in jeopardy out there. We’ve still got a long season to go.”