Wildcats Pull Away From USF Late on Jackie Robinson Day, 6-2
"Probably the best game we've played overall, all year long, from top to bottom," Head Coach Jason Beverlin said. "Hitting was great, defense was great, pitching was great, and I think it all stemmed from the right attitude."
Along with the big non-conference contest, the Wildcats also honored baseball great and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson at the field where he initially broke the color barrier in professional baseball, just two days after the 67th anniversary.
After two scoreless innings, the Bulls made the first strike, as catcher Chris Norton fired a single into shallow left center to bring home Kyle Teaf for a one-run inning to open the scoring, forcing starter Anthony Stokes to surrender his first run in three outings.
It was not long before the Wildcats entered the scorebook, set off by a PJ Biocic walk. Another base on balls for Brandon Turner made Biocic the first runner to reach scoring position, and the Wildcats were quick to capitalize. Eros Modena took the next pitch to right center, knotting the score with an RBI single.
The score remained tied at 1-1 in a pitcher's duel through two more frames, riding on the strength of Stokes' longest career appearance, but Matt Noble broke up the deadlock with a two-out career-first home run to left center to grant B-CU the 2-1 lead.
In the top of the seventh, Christopher Waltermire came out of the bullpen to relieve Stokes, pitching two solid innings to hold the line for B-CU, with one hit and no runs allowed.
The Wildcats showed patience in their approach in the bottom of the eighth and it paid off, taking on three USF pitchers in the frame. Turner led off reaching base on balls and advanced to third on an error attempting to down Modena on a sacrifice bunt. David Lee loaded the bases with another walk for the inning. The third walk of the inning provided an RBI for Eric Sams and an insurance run for the Wildcats.
Shaun McCarty put a single deep in the pocket to the shortstop, beating the throw to tack up another run for B-CU. Rounding out the eighth-inning scoring, P. Biocic fired a high line drive over the second baseman's glove to plate two more runs, extending the B-CU lead out to 6-1.
"We had some really good at-bats in that inning," Beverlin said. "Guys worked the count and were able to get on base with some big walks, and then PJ [Biocic] came up with the huge hit to cash some of those guys in."
The Bulls gave one final push, as Norton launched a power drive through the right side that sped through the outfield all the way to the right center wall for a triple. He crossed the plate two pitches later on a sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Kyle Copack. B-CU closer Jordan Dailey stopped the rally charge right there, shutting the door with consecutive swinging strikeouts for the 6-2 non-conference victory.
Stokes (2-1) secured the win with six innings on the hill, allowing just one run on five hits, walking none and striking out one.
"Stokes pitched unbelievably again, like just about every outing," Beverlin said. "I think the reason we play such good defense when he pitches is he throws strikes."
At the plate, Sams led the way for the Wildcats, hitting 3-for-3 with one run scored and one RBI.
"Every at-bat was outstanding," Beverlin noted of Sams. "If they pitched him away, he went the other way. If they pitched him in, he hit the ball to the right center gap. It's all about taking what they give you and making hard contact, and he did it all night long."
Five Wildcats logged RBI, as the Wildcats outhit the bulls 8-to-7, holding USF below their averages of 10 hits and six runs per game this season.
"I hope it opens their eyes to how good they can be when they come focused," Beverlin noted.
The Wildcats open a three-game series on Friday (6:30 p.m. CST) at Kansas State (12-8), with the following series games on Saturday (2 p.m. CST) and Sunday (1 p.m. CST). The KSU Wildcats lost Tuesday night to Minnesota, 8-3, and will face the Gophers on Wednesday as well.
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