A day before dad's funeral, USF's Peter Strzelecki takes mound
He surrendered a home run on his eighth pitch of the night, then walked the next batter on five pitches. His command and composure mostly eluded him.
But by the end of USF starter Peter Strzelecki's 1 1/2-inning stint Saturday night, Bulls coach Mark Kingston called it one of the most valiant efforts he has witnessed.
"I could not have done it," Kingston said.
Four nights after losing his father suddenly to a heart attack at age 52, the Bulls redshirt junior from Lake Worth took the mound against American Athletic Conference front-runner Houston, then watched his team (33-10, 8-6) rally for a 7-4 triumph before an announced USF Baseball Stadium crowd of 992.
Scheduled to pitch in Sunday's series finale against the Cougars (28-14, 9-5), Strzelecki had asked to throw a night early, and Kingston obliged.
Both player and coach will attend Kevin Strzelecki's funeral Sunday.
"When a guy tells you he wants to do that, under those circumstances, you say absolutely," Kingston said.
Strzelecki allowed four runs (two earned) in his brief stint, walking three and scattering three hits. After issuing his final walk, pitching coach Billy Mohl walked to the edge of the mound, where he and Strzelecki embraced.
The entire Bulls dugout followed, and the audience gave Strzelecki a standing ovation.
"He was doing the best he could under the circumstances," Kingston said. "I think after those two innings he was emotionally spent."
Almost as if on cue, the Bulls rallied from there, tying the score in the bottom of the third on Luke Borders' two-run single and Joe Genord's two-run homer. Spoto alumnus Chris Chatfield's RBI-single an inning later gave USF a 5-4 lead.
Alonso alumnus Ryan Valdes, who relieved Strzelecki, allowed one hit over 4 1/3 innings for his ninth victory of the season (against no losses).
"We have a saying, 'Love you like a brother,'" Valdes said.
"That's our motto, and I can't even express the words of just how lucky I was to come in after that guy. The team, meeting him (outside the dugout) after he came out of the game, that just tells you how tight we are as a family."