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Grit not enough as Bulls lose series to Virginia Commonwealth

Junior infielder John Montes (0) homered twice in the series against Virginia Commonwealth. ORACLE PHOTO/CARLEIGH BENEDICT

When looking at South Florida baseball’s series loss against Virginia Commonwealth, the scores don’t paint a true picture of what happened over the three-game slate.

To begin the series, the Bulls (9-16) fell to the Rams (12-12) 18-3 on Friday in what began as a pitching battle up until the seventh inning. The next day, USF bounced back and shut out VCU 9-0, but ended the weekend with a barnburner loss Sunday 25-15.

The USF starting rotation showed promise in two of the three days. Pitchers redshirt senior Ethan Brown and redshirt junior Hunter Mink pitched quality outings, recording a total of 12 innings pitched, 16 strikeouts and only three runs allowed between the two. Relief, however, was a different story. 

Here is how each game panned out for the Bulls:


VCU 18, USF 3

Redshirt senior pitch Ethan Brown made his third Friday start in a row against VCU. ORACLE PHOTO/CARLEIGH BENEDICT

Even if Friday’s score reads like the Rams dominated the Bulls throughout the game on paper, that is the opposite of what really occurred. 

For six innings, a pitcher’s duel took place between Brown and VCU pitcher Christian Gordon. Brown tossed six innings and logged 10 strikeouts while only allowing three runs. Gordon threw five with six strikeouts and allowed two Bulls across the plate. 

Offensively, the game was temporarily close with the Rams scoring a run in the third, fourth and fifth. However, junior infielder John Montes changed that immediately with a two-run homer and single RBI to tie the game 3-3. 

Bulls coach Billy Mohl said he was pleased with Brown’s performance and the setting of the game before the seventh inning.

“It was good. Six innings, 10 punch outs, gave up three runs, but they weren’t in bunches. So I thought the 3-3 ball game going into the seventh on Friday was an open book,” Mohl said.

Unfortunately, the pace of the game quickly took a turn in the top of the seventh. Freshman reliever Chandler Dorsey came in for relief, but gave away two walks and two runs. Unable to tally outs, the bullpen came in to help but couldn’t dissolve the situation. 

Over the course of the final three innings, seven pitchers gave up 15 runs and eight walks.

USF 9, VCU 0

Redshirt junior Daniel Cantu recorded seven RBI over the series, pushing him from second to first in RBI’s for the team with 20 so far this season. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

Saturday showcased a different side of USF baseball, one that showed consistency no matter what side of the ball they are behind. 

Mink recorded his fourth win of the season while limiting the Rams to three hits and no runs, all while striking out six in six innings. Right behind him was redshirt sophomore Nolan Hudi, who logged his first save and struck out five in three innings of work. 

USF baseball showed grit in its second match and Mohl said he was proud of how Mink and Hudi performed in game two.

“They competed, they went out there and three strikes. I think we punched out 11 and walked three. They threw the ball over the plate and challenged them and we were ahead in the count all the time,” Mohl said. 

In the batter’s box, the Bulls’ offense put up 12 hits and nine runs, with half of the runs scored in a two-out situation. Dominating at the plate was redshirt junior Daniel Cantu with two doubles and a home run to bring five Bulls home. 

Game two showed the consistency that the Bulls have been craving all season. Pitching kept the VCU offense quiet while the bats did their job and racked up runs.

VCU 25, USF 15

Freshman infielder Eric Snow brought his average to .308 after this weekend, with his best day at the plate being on Sunday after going 4-5 with a homer and three RBI. ORACLE PHOTO/CARLEIGH BENEDICT

If there is one thing Sunday proved, it’s that baseball is one of the most unpredictable sports out there. On paper, this final match almost seemed like a football game. Game three showcased a high-scoring affair that ended in VCU’s favor after it put up 24 hits, 25 runs and four homers for the day. 

Bulls sophomore pitcher Jack Cebert didn’t provide the same results he had the last two outings, only pitching 2.1 innings on Sunday paired with four strikeouts, six earned runs and one walk. However, his work did not raise any major concerns for Mohl. 

“Sometimes you have a bad day. He went six innings against Long Beach, seven innings last week. He’s been really good for us. He had a bump in the road this weekend. He’s the least of my concerns,” Mohl said. 

It is what came after in the bullpen that worried Mohl. 

South Florida threw seven players from the bullpen after Cebert and everyone struggled, giving up a combined 16 earned runs and walking six Rams. 

“Yeah, it wasn’t good. It wasn’t very good. The pen on Friday and the pen today is not good enough right now to win,” Mohl said. 

The Bulls are now just one game away from conference play, taking on Central Florida in Orlando next weekend after hitting the road to take on Bethune-Cookman on Tuesday. It doesn’t get any easier for USF either, with the Knights (16-8) recording a .302 average and 5.14 ERA in 24 games. 

For coach Mohl, he said pitching is going to have to take major strides before heading into their conference slate. 

“I mean, you gotta pitch better. We did all three well yesterday and the pitching led us down today so we got to put all three together. When we put all three together [we’re a] pretty good ballclub. When one one sputters it really sputters, so just consistency,” Mohl said. 

“They got to put it all together like they did yesterday. New season begins this weekend with UCF with the conference slate beginning, so everything that we still want to obtain is up for grabs.”

USF will head to Daytona to take on Bethune-Cookman on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on YouTube.