This season for the USF baseball team was arguably its most historic, but it came to an end Sunday night as the No. 2 Texas Longhorns downed the Bulls 12-4 in Austin, Texas.
The AAC’s preseason coaches poll tabbed USF (31-30, 14-14 AAC) to finish last in the conference, leading many to believe this season would not be a pretty one for the Bulls.
But USF proved its doubters wrong and put together a season in which it won the AAC tournament as well as the Gainesville Regional, securing its spot in the final 16 teams competing to get to Omaha for the College Baseball World Series.
Reaching the Super Regionals and putting up a valiant effort against Texas (47-15, 17-7 B12), especially in game one where the Bulls lost 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, is nothing to scoff at. Coach Billy Mohl said he’s proud of his team for what it was able to do all year.
“It’s a special group of kids in that locker room that finally gelled and pulled together and [it was] just one of the best months of baseball in my entire life, coaching career, you name it,” Mohl said. “I’m really proud of these kids, I love them to death, lots of tears, lots of hugs in that locker room … I couldn’t be prouder.”
The Bulls struck first in game two on a two-run single from redshirt sophomore Jarrett Eaton in the first inning. Eaton finished the game with three hits and two RBIs.
However, the course of the game quickly shifted in the next two frames as Texas scored six runs to build a lead it would never relinquish.
The Bulls added a run in the fourth, but the Longhorns responded again with two scores of their own in the fifth inning to make it a 8-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth.
A large reason for the scoring outburst from Texas was due to the fact many of USF’s pitchers who typically have good control such as redshirt freshmen Orion Kerkering and Tanner Mink and redshirt seniors Collin Sullivan and Logan Lyle struggled with command. In total, the Bulls walked 12 Texas batters including two with the bases loaded in the fifth inning.
Mohl didn’t hesitate to give his pitchers praise for their work getting USF into this position, however.
“[Our pitchers] have been lights out for us all down the stretch,” Mohl said. “We’ve asked a lot of them. Some days you have it, some days you don’t, that’s the game of baseball. We wouldn’t be where we are today without those guys.”
Texas kept USF at bay for the remainder of the game except for an RBI double from freshman Matt Ruiz in the sixth inning. The Longhorns also knocked in four more runs, putting the finishing touches on their victory.
Despite the dream season coming to an end, Mohl said the experience his team earned will help to build on what it achieved and sustain or surpass this level of success in future seasons.
“We’re mostly a young team, we’re going to have a lot of guys back that were just out on that field,” Mohl said. “Obviously, we’re [going to be] missing some guys like Collin Sullivan, Logan Lyle, Jake Sullivan and Dylan Burns. But majority of our roster is guys that will be back next year.
“Having that experience [and] being in this environment for the first time will help us down the road when we’re in it again.”