USF added another data point to its case as the preeminent baseball university in Florida on Tuesday night.
Joe Genord went 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI, and D.J. Roberts pitched seven strong innings as the 23rd-ranked Bulls built a double-digit lead over the #5 Florida Gators and coasted home with a 15-10 win at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville.
The 15 runs were the most USF has ever scored in Gainesville. It was one short of the Bulls’ all-time record score against the Gators (a 16-3 win in 1989), and combined with their win at Florida State in February, it marked the first time USF baseball has ever won at Florida and at FSU in the same season.
Genord put the Bulls (38-10) on top in the first inning with a two-run homer. After the Gators pulled a run back in the second inning, USF blew the game open early by scoring six times in the third. Duke Stunkel and Luke Borders drew two of the Bulls’ 17 walks to start the inning. (Yes, we said 17 walks.) Genord’s base hit scored Stunkel to make it 3-1. Villar walked to load the bases, and Tyler Dietrich’s fielder’s choice scored Borders. Coco Montes followed with a two-run double. Garrett Zech singled, followed by a groundout to first by Chris Chatfield that moved runners to second and third. Finally, Kevin Merrell singled them both in to give USF an 8-1 lead.
That was more than enough support for Roberts, who scattered six hits and allowed only two earned runs during his 99-pitch performance. He walked only two and struck out four.
USF continued piling on runs all night and led 13-3 with six outs to go. From there the back end of the USF bullpen tried their best to give Bulls fans a coronary. Mark Savarese pitched a shaky eighth inning, allowing two Florida runs. USF answered back with two runs of their own in the top of the ninth, but that was followed by Collin Sullivan pitching a disastrous bottom of the ninth. He was hit up for five runs in two-thirds of an inning, which cut the Bulls’ 15-5 lead in half. Finally Mark Kingston summoned Ryan Valdes to put an end to the Gator shenanigans, and even that took a little bit of doing before finally recording the last out.
Sure, a midweek game is a little different than facing a team like Florida on a weekend with their best pitchers available. But it’s not like USF ran their ace out there, and the offense still cranked out a season-high 15 runs. It’s a big win no matter how you slice it. Besides, the RPI isn’t going to know the difference.
If USF wasn’t already assured a spot in the NCAA Tournament, this win should certainly wrap up their bid. Now they can aim for a conference title and maybe even hosting a regional, which is not completely out of the question if they keep winning. The Bulls next travel to UConn for a pivotal weekend series with the Huskies this Friday through Sunday.