USF opened the 2022 season at the USF Baseball Stadium this weekend with just one win against Louisville, bookended by losses to UConn and Charlotte that hinted at the team’s weaknesses.
With mistakes stemming from pitching and the lineup, inconsistencies from last season linger with USF (1-2).
It may be just the first series of the year, but the weekend showed the Bulls’ weak spots that need to be repaired.
UConn 5, USF 4 F/10
The Bulls fell to UConn (2-1) on opening day. The game that had to be settled in extra innings with the teams going back-and-forth early in the game.
In the bottom of the second, redshirt sophomore outfielder Daniel Cantu logged his first solo home run for the season, tying the game 1-1 after the Huskies opened the scoring in the top half of the inning.
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Jack Jasiak allowed just two runs over six innings of work in his outing. USF’s offense came alive in the bottom of the sixth as it trailed 2-1 going into the inning.
Redshirt junior outfielder Jarrett Eaton started off the rally with a two-run double. In his USF debut, redshirt sophomore catcher Ben Rozenblum followed with an RBI single bringing the score to 4-2.
In the seventh inning, things took a turn for the worst on the mound. Redshirt senior pitcher Joseph Sanchez entered in relief for Jasiak, but allowed two runs to tie the game. It wasn’t long until redshirt sophomore pitcher Orion Kerkering was called in to replace Sanchez.
The game stretched into extra innings, where Kerkering allowed a go-ahead home run in the top of the 10th inning for UConn to take the win.
USF 8, Louisville 4
The Bulls’ offense showed up early on Saturday to secure an 8-4 win against Louisville (1-2), coach Billy Mohl’s 100th win at USF.
“It’s all about these guys. It’s great, it’s a great milestone,” he said. “I love that it’s been done here. But again, it’s all the players. They’re the ones who create the wins and losses.”
The Bulls batted around in the bottom of the second, rocking Louisville’s starter with six base hits and taking advantage of two defensive errors. Cantu led off with a double in a scoreless game and singled later that inning with USF up 6-0.
In the top of the fifth, USF faced their own defensive challenges, allowing four runners to cross the plate thanks in part to an error by sophomore third baseman Matt Ruiz and a wild pitch.
Redshirt sophomore Carmine Lane was able to tally an insurance run with an RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth, sealing the victory.
“Today you saw a mature lineup that took what we were given and took advantage of it,” Mohl said. “I was really proud. I challenged them to go back, to just relax like playing the game in the backyard, and they executed.”
Charlotte 8, USF 3 F/8
The Bulls defeated the Cardinals the day before, but didn’t show up against Charlotte (2-1) on Sunday, falling 8-3.
USF had to go deep into its bullpen against the 49ers, with not a whole lot of success. Mohl used seven different pitchers over the course of the eight-inning game.
“That’s the area we’re trying to figure out right now,” he said. “Obviously, we threw all of our key guys in the other day. So we got a bunch of new faces.
“We put them out there to see what they do. That was kind of the plan going into the day is to try to get out opportunities and obviously, some guys struggled, some guys were great and it’s just kind of piecing it together to figure out where we’re at.”
Pitchers such as freshman Jack Cebert and redshirt freshman Nolan Hudi had tough outings as the 49ers scored eight runs on six hits over the first couple innings.
The Bulls finally got on the board in the sixth inning when Lane hit a three-run homer, but it wasn’t enough for the offense to recover. The game was called off following the eighth inning due to time constraints on Charlotte’s side.
After an inconsistent first weekend, Mohl stressed the need for patience as his team answers the questions that may come as a result of the performance.
“[We just need] time,” he said. “It’s the first three games of the season. Still trying to piece things together. Baseball is a rhythmic sport, so once these guys get in the groove, some of these guys are in it right now, but it takes a little bit to get back into the swing of things.”
The Bulls will remain in Tampa to face Stony Brook on Friday at 7 p.m. The weekend series will be broadcast on ESPN+ and iHeart Radio Bulls Unlimited.