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FORT MYERS – Equally sprightly and patient bats proved key to the USF baseball squad as they soared to a Tuesday night victory over the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles. The Bulls defeated FGCU 6-4 in the final non-conference matchup of the 2013 season and improved their record to 33-19.
The Bulls hitters eyed the strike zone with patient accuracy in the first inning as four walks off Eagles’ left-handed starter Brandon Bixler, who lasted only 2/3 of an inning and dealt 24 pitches, lead to an early run as a Levi Borders walk forced in Alex Mendez. A single by Anthony Diaz drove in James Ramsay, amplifying the Bulls lead by another run. The team ended the inning with a 2-0 advantage.
Hustle on the basepaths by Kyle Teaf, who stole second after hitting a single, garnered a third run for the Bulls in the second inning on an RBI single by Ramsay off of right-hander Danny Patrick.
The Eagles offense was restrained by Bulls sophomore starter Mike Clarkson up until faltering control lead to a big Eagles sixth inning. Clarkson, who had kept the opposing offense to a mere two hits through five innings, found himself in a spot after three consecutive singles by Alex Diaz, Mike Reeves, and Michael Suchy flagged one run and disallowed any outs.
An error committed by Clarkson while attempting a sliding launch to first baseman Jimmy Falla wrought two more runs for FGCU, but a combined effort by Janick Sarrallonga and Adrian Puig (4-0) steered the Bulls out of potential crisis and maintained a tied ballgame.
Motivated Bulls bats broke out once again in the seventh as they sent six batters to the plate against reliever RJ Brown. Brown’s final inning out of the three he worked consisted of two more runs to the Bulls, including a sacrifice fly by Ramsay. Ramsay successfully hailed a 2-for-3 performance with two RBIs and a walk under his belt and an increase in his overall batting average to a stellar .334, the highest on the Bulls team.
A spurt in the ninth inspired one final score after pinch-hitter Kyle Copack grounded into a force at second and allowed the runner at third to hit home plate, settling the Bulls’ scoreboard count to six and securing the loss for Brown.
Abnormal unsteadiness by Lawrence Pardo, who entered the evening with a 1.74 earned run average over 29 appearances, raised pulses in the Bulls dugout during the Eagles’ half of the ninth. A notable 14-pitch at-bat by Brooks Beisner marked the second of a trio of walks allowed by an off-balance Pardo. The left-hander yielded three baserunners to sophomore Jordan Strittmatter.
Strittmatter allowed merely one to score via a sacrifice fly to Zack Tillery, and thereafter denied bases to the remaining two batters. Strittmatter ended the game with a fly out to Ramsay in center, securing the victory for a Bulls team who had in March struggled against FGCU, and ticking for himself a second save for the year.
The Bulls’ hit count rounded to 11, three of which were supplied by Chris Norton in the designated hitter role. Nik Alfonso also put up a notable performance, going 2-for-4 on the night. Puig was granted the win after his one-out appearance in the sixth.
The team seeks the comforts of home-field advantage in their next set versus Rutgers University. USF currently sits just atop Rutgers in the Big East standings, boasting a 15-6 Big East record to Rutgers’ opposing 13-8, and hopes to boost their overall home record above the current 23-4. This final regular season series commences on Thursday night at 7 p.m.