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Merrell Powers Bulls to 11th Straight Win, 8-1 Over Villanova

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The Bulls are off to their best start in program history.

USF

USF baseball continued their scalding hot start to the year with another win Wednesday, this time 8-1 over the visiting Villanova Wildcats. The Bulls are now 12-1, the best 13-game start in program history, and they extended their winning streak to 11.

Fresh off making the American Athletic Conference Honor Roll last week, SS Kevin Merrell showed off some impressive power with two home runs. He launched a three-run homer in a five-run fourth inning, and added a solo shot in the seventh inning.

“I’m not sure,” Merrell said about the power surge. “I just closed my eyes and swung real hard. It was a good night tonight.”

Merrell went 4-for-5 with two HR’s, five RBIs and three runs scored. The four hits ties his career high and the five RBI are a career best for the junior. The last time a Bulls hitter had five RBI in a game was DH Luke Borders against Stetson in 2015.

“He’s an evolving player,” head coach Mark Kingston said. “He’s a developing player. He’s getting stronger over the years and he has a good swing. He got a few balls up in the zone tonight and he did what a good hitter will do with them.”

Joining Merrell in the power department was 2B Coco Montes, who went back-to-back with Merrell in the fourth.

Freshman RHP D.J. Roberts was dominant in his second career start. Roberts mowed down the first 17 batters he faced and gave up just two hits, one run, and one walk in six innings of work. Roberts struck out six, and most impressively, he recorded a first-pitch strike on all 21 hitters he faced.

“He was very good tonight,” Kingston said. “His command was outstanding. His fastball was up to 91-92 [MPH]. His off-speed pitches were good, especially his changeup. And he had great poise. To see that kind of poise out of a freshman is exactly what you’re looking for.”

CF Garrett Zech continues to be a terror in the #9 hole as he went 2-for-4 with a triple, a stolen base and two runs. He got the third inning going with a leadoff triple and was singled home by Merrell. Zech is hitting .333 on the year.

The Bulls remain home this weekend for a three-game series with Valparaiso. Friday night’s game begins at 6:30 p.m.

Notables:

  • JUCO transfer SS Clay Simmons is no longer with the team for personal reasons.
  • DH Luke Borders (13), Montes (11) and 3B David Villar (11) extended their on-base streaks. Montes also extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
  • Tonight was only the second time this season that Bulls pitching didn’t record at least 10 strikeouts. The other was at Florida State on February 27.
  • USF collected a total of 30 hits in their midweek games against Jacksonville and Villanova. They have at least 10 hits in seven of their 13 games.