Shaky relief paves way for Eagles to soar over Bulls

Redshirt sophomore Nolan Hudi (34) gave a quality outing for the Bulls in his sixth start of the season. ORACLE PHOTO/CARLEIGH BENEDICT

Midweek matches in Florida are no easy feat given the many talented teams across the state. On Tuesday, USF baseball hosted previously top 25 ranked FGCU where they fell in a 14-3 seven-inning mercy rule.

The Eagles’ (30-11, ASUN 13-5) offense is ranked No. 5 in batting average across NCAA baseball and showcases sophomore infielder Edrick Felix, who is the No. 26 batting average hitter in the country. Including then-ranked No. 7 Florida (Feb. 21-22) and No. 16 FSU (March 1), this was one of the more challenging midweek games on the South Florida (17-25, AAC 6-6) schedule.

With freshman pitcher Lawson Gailey moving into the weekend rotation, redshirt sophomore pitcher Nolan Hudi was moved into the Tuesday starting role last Tuesday against North Florida. Hudi only lasted in two innings of work last week, but made a big turnaround against the Eagles.

In four innings pitched, the lefty only gave up two runs to the renowned offense with nine strikeouts paired with it.

Bulls coach Billy Mohl said he was proud of Hudi’s performance after seeing him struggle throughout the season.

“He did a really good job. He had to sit through an hour weather delay and then come out there and punch out nine against that team. I thought he did a really good job,” Mohl said.

However, USF was unable to limit FGCU’s powerful offense after Hudi’s quality outing. Between five different pitchers in the Bullspen, the group gave up six earned runs and 12 overall runs.

Walks and getting behind in the count were huge factors along with hitting a pair of Eagles that gave such a big lead to Florida Gulf Coast. With that, defensive hiccups also played a huge role in the high scoring affair.

The seven runs in the fifth inning would have been limited to one if junior infielder John Montes didn’t make an error at second, giving the Eagles more opportunities for runners to cross the plate.

Mohl was disappointed in what occurred after Hudi’s start, seeing they were able to limit FGCU to five runs earlier in the 2023 campaign.

“They’re [FGCU] a good offense. They’re old. They’re strong. We shot ourselves in the foot. Grause comes in, got the ground ball, could have been out of the inning. We kick it, next thing you know there’s seven runs on the board,” Mohl said.

Even though the USF offense was unable to put up more runs on the board, they are fairly capable of doing so. Just this last weekend, the Bulls put up 14 runs against the Knights on Saturday.

For Mohl, he said he knows his batting order needs to have a bigger contribution, but the mental part of the game is also something to keep note of.

“They gotta have better at bats. I mean, look up. You got four hits, three runs. It’s Saturday, 14 runs. They got to put it together,” Mohl said.

“I think there’s a little pressure on them. The pitchers go out and they give up seven, eight runs and then [the offense] tries to fight back offensively. I think hitters put some pressure on themselves, but at the end of the day, they just got to keep going one pitch at a time.”

South Florida baseball will continue its homestand, hosting a three game series against Cincinnati starting Friday at 6:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and Bulls Unlimited.