USF baseball beat Valparaiso Saturday night 8-1 to extend their winning streak to 13 games.
The Bulls (14-1) got a good enough performance from redshirt freshman Shane McClanahan, who didn’t give up a hit until the sixth inning but walked four in an uncharacteristically wild outing. He wasn’t happy about how he threw, and knows he’s better than that.
“Four walks, you can’t have that. It’s inexcusable,” McClanahan said. “[Pitching coach Billy] Mohl came out and told me my tempo was off and I immediately knew what I had to get done.
McClanahan walked the leadoff batter, CF James Stea, to start the game. Stea came around to score on a classic “get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in” series of at-bats, giving the Crusaders a 1-0 lead.
USF responded immediately. SS Kevin Merrell doubled to lead off the bottom of the first, and DH Luke Borders hit a sac fly to center field to bring Merrell home to tie things at one apiece.
In the third, McClanahan got in trouble by walking the bases loaded, but he escaped the inning by striking out RF Giovanni Garabella and inducing a foul out to the catcher to end the threat.
“Sometimes it takes guys 15 to 20 pitches to find their groove and I think was probably the case with [McClanahan] tonight,” Kingston said. “It just took a little longer than normal to find his groove, but once he did he was fine.”
The Bulls carried that momentum into their half of the third and pushed across five runs, punctuated by a 3B David Villar two-run double to extend their lead to 6-1.
“We got some big hits,” head coach Mark Kingston said. “Would have liked to see a bit more. I thought we swung the bats decent tonight, but not as good as we can.”
The five-run frame was USF’s 15th inning scoring at least three runs this season. In eight of those innings, they have scored at least four runs, including the season-high niner in the 8th inning on opening night against Iowa.
“It just helped me relax a lot,” McClanahan said of the big inning. “Going out there with that huge lead anyone can throw strikes out there. It’s awesome to go out there and know your guys are gonna get you eight runs a game. It’s easy to pitch like that.”
After McClanahan put two runners on in the sixth with only one out, RHP Joe Cavallaro came on and ended the threat. He pitched 2 2⁄3 shutout innings, striking out three and walking one. He has 23 K’s in 15 2⁄3 innings this season, and an ERA of 0.57.
Closer Andrew Perez worked a scoreless ninth to seal the win.
“I think this year guys kinda know their roles and that’s the key part,” Perez said about the dominance of the bullpen this season compared to last year.
- Borders went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
- Villar went 1-for-4 with two RBIs.
- CF Garrett Zech walked twice tonight. He had two walks all season coming into tonight.
- The Bulls won Friday night 11-2 behind a great performance from senior RHP Phoenix Sanders, who struck out ten batters in seven innings to earn his second win of the year. Sanders’s ERA now stands at a minuscule 1.78.