After coming off an offensively explosive midweek series split against Boston College, USF baseball triumphed over Bradley, taking the series 2-1.
The Bulls (10-6) played well in the first and third game of the series but had challenges defensively that cost USF from sweeping the series against the Braves (4-8).
Home runs put on the board were the major difference makers in each win, including a walk-off to take the last game of the series.
USF 6, Bradley 3
USF began the series with a different ace Friday. Redshirt junior Orion Kerkering got the start rather than redshirt sophomore pitcher Jack Jasiak.
Kerkering completed another solid outing, logging 5.2 innings with eight strikeouts and only allowing three Braves to touch home. He has yet to lose a start since transitioning into the rotation this season.
Although both teams put up nine hits each, the Bulls were able to drive the runners home.
The majority of the runs came from freshmen outfielders Jackson Mayo and Marcus Brodil. Mayo hit two homers, racking up a total of four RBI, while Brodil sent a ball over the fence for a solo shot.
Mayo, who his hit first collegiate home run, was too excited to even recall the play.
“I just kind of blacked out,” he said. “I didn’t really remember much. I just saw the pitch come in, and I saw it going over the fence. So it’s definitely a great feeling.”
Bradley 10, USF 4
Although USF’s pitching staff struck out 11 batters on Saturday, there was a lack of defensive solidity from the Bulls, who finished with seven errors in the loss.
In the third inning, two errors from redshirt junior pitcher Brad Lord and one from infielder Nick Gonzalez cost USF three unearned runs, helping Bradley to take a 5-1 lead.
Defensive mistakes continued to plague USF as the game went on and Bradley took advantage by scoring insurance runs to extend their lead 10-1.
“Just a bad, bad defensive day,” coach Billy Mohl said. “There’s no way to sugarcoat that, it was like the circus came to Tampa. That’s what it felt like. It was just one led to another led to another and it was not good.”
USF 8, Bradley 7
The rubber match of the series proved to be a nail-biter that ended with a walk-off homer from redshirt sophomore infielder Carmine Lane.
With the game on the line and the series at stake, Lane stayed cool under pressure, using a calm approach at the plate to seal the series win.
“I feel great, going in there just trying to have a good at-bat and things went well,” he said. “Just have to stay relaxed, winning pitch by pitch and doing anything I can to help the team.”
Lane is currently USF’s best bat in the lineup with a .379 batting average and a team-high 21 RBI. He finished the game 2-of-5 at the plate with two RBI.
With the Bulls trailing 7-4 in the seventh inning, they looked in danger of seeing the series slip away, but a comeback over the final two innings gave Lane the opportunity to win the game in the ninth.
USF started the rally in the eighth with an RBI double from Lane and a two-RBI single from utility Ben Rozenblum, evening the score 7-7.
Lane stepped up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and smashed a ball over the left-field fence to win the series with one dramatic swing of the bat.
Though his team got the victory, Mohl felt more could have been done when it came to the overall performance.
“I thought today was OK. Obviously, we fought back and that was a good thing to see us fighting. I thought our at-bats were very just vanilla,” he said. “I think this offense is way more capable of what it showed the entirety of the week actually.
“We got to keep working on it, baseball’s a long, long season, so you’re going to hit your ebbs and flows and I felt like today and this week, we weren’t playing at our best so it’s time to get back on track because we got some really good opponents this week.”
The Bulls will hit the road to face Florida International in a midweek game on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Miami.