CLEARWATER, FL - The number-one seeded C. Knights pounded the fourth-seeded USF Bulls 12-0 in an elimination game of The American baseball tournament on Friday afternoon at Spectrum Field.
The game was scoreless until the sixth inning. While USF starting pitcher Peter Strzelecki struggled through the early innings, he managed to keep C. off the scoreboard. In the sixth, though, he was pulled after Bulls shortstop Kevin Merrell committed an error that would open the floodgates.
Following the error, the Knights (40-19) scored seven runs on five hits, including a two-run double by C. second baseman Matthew Mika and a two-run homer by catcher Logan Heiser that made it 5-0.
Strzelecki was charged with four runs, just one earned, six hits and three walks in 5.1 innings of work.
“He was just fine. Five innings and it was a 0-0 ballgame. It looked like we were going to have another really good USF against UCF game and it just got away from us,” said USF head coach Mark Kingston.
USF reliever Ryan Valdes didn’t provide much relief for the Bulls after replacing Strzelecki. He walked the first C. batter he faced. A wild pitch and hit batter would follow before Knights shortstop Brennan Bozeman really broke the game open with a two-run single to make it 7-0 C. It was Bozeman’s second at-bat of the inning.
“I don’t know if there was a mental hangover (from last night) but we looked a little tired. We are going to give them the next 48 hours off just to let them get away from it all,” Kingston said.
There really wasn’t much to speak of offensively for USF. The Bulls (41-17) were held hitless until the seventh inning when Coco Montes doubled off the right-field wall. Catcher Tyler Dietrich had the only other hit in the game for USF against C. starter Chris Williams.
Williams pitched eight innings for the Knights allowing just the two hits and striking out seven USF batters.
“He was really good today. That combined with us, and where we were, it was a bad combination. I thought we would do better,” added Kingston.
With the loss, USF is eliminated from The American Championship contention and will now await their fate in the NCAA Baseball Tournament. The Bulls will find out their regional destination during the selection show on Monday afternoon at 12:00 pm.