Four USF relievers combined for 4 2⁄3 shutout innings to make early runs stand up in a 4-2 win over North Florida at Jacksonville’s Harmon Field Wednesday night.
Ryan Valdes, Mark Savarese, Joe Cavallaro, and Andrew Perez allowed just two hits in their relief relay, striking out nine. Valdes got the win in place of starter D.J. Roberts, who threw 4 1⁄3 innings and allowed three hits and two unearned runs.
The Bulls (30-7) got on the board in the top of the first. Kevin Merrell reached on an error to lead off the game. Two batters latter, Luke Borders tripled to deep center field to score Merrell. Borders came home on a Joe Genord RBI groundout to make the score 2-0.
The Ospreys (27-14) tied it up with two unearned runs in the third off Bulls starter D.J. Roberts. After Rey Gonzalez singled, Mac Wilson hit a grounder to David Villar at third. Villar’s throw to first was way off line and got far enough away that Gonzalez came all the way around to score. Wilson ended up at third base and later scored on Chris Thibideux’s two-out RBI single.
USF took the lead back in the fourth inning on Cameron Montgomery’s RBI single to left. Villar scored, but Genord was thrown out trying to tack on another run. The Bulls would get that insurance run in the fifth inning when Merrell led off with a double, advanced to third on Coco Montes’ groundout, and scored on another Luke Borders hit.
After that, the USF bullpen shut the door. Things got a little dicey in the ninth when Perez walked two batters and threw a wild pitch to bring the winning run to the plate with two out. But he escaped the jam by getting Wesley Weeks (who went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts) to fly out to right.
The Bulls stay on the road for a weekend series with Memphis beginning Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Phoenix Sanders is the likely starter for the series opener.
IMPORTANT: UNF plays at Dusty Rhodes Field.
ALSO IMPORTANT: Their coach is named “Smoke Laval.”