Bulls log first weekend series win
It was the bottom of the ninth in the tie game between South Florida and Army on Friday night when junior infielder John Montes stepped into the box. He took one deep breath and swung away, sending a ball over the fence to walk off the Black Knights (7-10) 8-7.
Montes continued the momentum on Saturday with a three-run shot to center field in the fifth to put the Bulls (8-13) in lead 5-3.
South Florida’s leadoff batter set the tone for the weekend for the Bulls to post their first weekend series win of the season. Seeing his team come together and recording his first college walk off was something Montes called magical.
“I felt amazing. I mean, it was my first walk off in my college career and it was a home run. Our season has not been what we wanted it to be and I think I did something positive for the ballclub because we just kept rolling from that and it was a big motivator for everybody else,” Montes said.
Coming off a series split against Dartmouth on Wednesday, South Florida made some serious adjustments before heading into its weekend slate against Army.
Starting with USF’s rotation, pitchers redshirt senior Ethan Brown, redshirt junior Hunter Mink and sophomore Jack Cebert cut down on walks only issuing a total eight in the series. Including relief, the pitchers racked up 32 strikeouts and gave up 16 runs in comparison to the last series against Long Beach State, where they allowed 18 runners home while issuing 17 walks and 24 strikeouts.
Coach Billy Mohl said he has been pleased with the development in his bullpen the last couple weeks as everything begins to fall into place.
“They’ve been getting better every week. Cebert has had two quality starts in a row now for us, he’s starting to solidify, he’s at this point. I thought Hunter didn’t have his best stuff the other day, but he gave us six innings and Brown has been good,” Mohl said.
Game three showcased a stellar performance on the mound by Cebert, as he issued eight strikeouts, one walk and two unearned runs in six innings pitched. However, Army did some damage while redshirt sophomore pitcher Nolan Hudi came in relief.
Hudi gave up one walk, two earned and two unearned runs in the seventh during his one inning pitched.
Mohl had just one thing to say about Hudi, as the player has been unable to produce a solid outing since his March 7 performance against Pittsburgh.
“He’s Jekyll and Hyde,” Mohl said.
At the plate, South Florida’s first two games showed its slump beginning to diminish. On Friday, the Bulls scored eight runs over 11 hits while on Saturday they logged five runs in seven hits.
However, Sunday’s match showed a struggling offense which scored only one run over four hits.
Mohl said he was dissatisfied with the bats after seeing them perform so well the first two days of the series.
“Today, one run on four hits. That’s not acceptable on a Sunday. I thought we swung the bats well the first few days and I thought today had nothing to show for it. But like I said at the end of the day, it was one run on four hits. They had the same conditions to hit in and we didn’t get the job done,” Mohl said.
The Bulls proved this weekend that despite their challenges with inconsistency, they are building the foundation of a well-rounded team. However, the program must do so quickly with conference play just two weeks away.
South Florida will return home on Friday at 6:30 p.m. to take on Virginia Commonwealth for a three-game series. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and Bulls Unlimited.