A pitcher’s duel was cooking up at Red McEwen Tuesday night, where South Florida baseball came out successful in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh.
The Bulls (4-9) played a complete-effort game for what seemed like the first time in recent memory. Against the Panthers (7-6), the Bulls recorded 14 strikeouts while facing a composed batting order that was hitting .283 before taking on USF.
USF’s pitching staff made huge strides of improvement in the midweek battle, with redshirt sophomore Nolan Hudi settling into a groove after giving up a solo shot to Pitt in the first. In six innings, the lefty recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts.
Coach Billy Mohl smiled when talking about Hudi’s performance on the mound and seeing his pitching staff come together for the first time in a while.
“After this weekend, giving up I don’t even know how many runs, I tried to put that out of my mind. But Nolan Hudi, six innings,10 strikeouts, five hits, no walks, and then the bullpen comes in with four punch outs, no walks, one hit,” Mohl said.
“That’s what we’ve kind of built this whole thing on. Obviously, we’ve struggled the first three weeks but it’s going to take a little time. We’re starting to piece it together getting the guys in the right spots, but that was big by Hudi today to set the tone.”
However, the batting order struggled at the plate until the sixth when Pitt junior pitcher Holden Phelps struck out seven USF batters. That changed when sophomore infielder Bobby Boser recorded a single RBI followed by a sacrifice bunt by junior infielder John Montes to put the Bulls 2-1.
Even though big hits have been the pattern for the Bulls, Mohl’s strategy of small ball worked best against the Panthers.
“It’s baseball, you never know what you’re getting on a given day. Some days you come out and balls fly all over the yard, some nights it’s still, and you got to manufacture to score runs,” Mohl said.
“I thought Johnny with a safety squeezer there was huge to put us in the lead because that guy did a really good job for them holding us down.”
Relief pitching continued Hudi’s momentum with redshirt junior Tanner Mink and junior Riley Skeen punching four Panthers out and only giving up one hit in three innings.
Overall, South Florida came out on the field a different team than they have shown in the past six games. If the staff can keep up and continue making adjustments, the team can head in a better direction.
South Florida recorded a much-needed win, but can’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet with a road trip to Long Beach State next on the schedule.
One thing Hudi made clear after the game was that the Bulls need to keep one common trend when they take on the Dirtbags (7-3) — no walks allowed.
“No walks. I didn’t have any walks tonight, I’m not sure if Tanner and Skeener [Skeen] did after that but I’m pretty sure we didn’t have one. Just no walks for the pitching staff, we gave up a ton of freebies over the weekend,” Hudi said.
“For the staff to really not give up walks tonight, that shows to the success we can be having. Freebies kill us. Like I said, to the staff as a whole that was a huge thing for us to hang up a ton of zeros.”
USF will return home to begin a two-day midweek series against Dartmouth Tuesday at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and Bulls Unlimited.