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Freshmen Lift USF Baseball to 7-4 Season-Opening Win Over Samford

The Bulls have won six straight season openers.

Will Turner/The Daily Stampede

Fueled by home runs from freshmen Nick Gonzalez and Dylan Buck in their collegiate debuts, the USF baseball team opened the 2019 campaign with a 7-4 victory over Samford on Friday night.

“Those are going to be two very special freshmen moving forward,” second-year head coach Billy Mohl said. “I was very happy to see them have success early.”

Junior starter Collin Sullivan set the tone on the mound, allowing just two earned runs on four hits while recording a career-high 10 strikeouts in six impressive innings of work.

“I thought it was a good way to kickoff the season,” Sullivan said. “It was a lot of hard work coming over from the fall and spring... I just wanted to get ahead so we could throw whatever we wanted after that.”

After senior Joe Genord opened the scoring in the first with an RBI double, Jordan Santos and Tyler Dietrich drew back-to-back walks in the second to setup Gonzalez’s three-run blast to left that made it 4-0 USF.

“Hitting the home run was a nice change,” Gonzalez said. “I’m a guy who likes to barrel the ball a lot, so I look for pitches I could barrel, I ended up getting one and good things happened.”

The Bulls pushed their lead to 5-0 in the third inning after Buck, a Freshman of the Year favorite, homered over the fence in left.

In the fifth, with the bases loaded and no outs, another Santos walk and a Dietrich sac-fly to left made it 7-1.

Redshirt junior Dylan Burns entered in the seventh, allowing an earned run in two innings before newcomer Nelson Alavarez struck out a pair of Bulldogs in the ninth to preserve the win.

“I wanted to get Nelson in there while the game wasn’t on the line to get him some work,” Mohl added. “And Burns has made progress so I wanted to see how he did when the lights came on.”

Senior righty Alec Wisely is expected to start Game 2 on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. from the USF Baseball Stadium.