Carlin, Cleveland continue late-season surge
Two of the improbable stars in USF's 9-3 win against Notre Dame on Tuesday night, senior Charles Cleveland and freshman Junior Carlin, have resurrected disappointing seasons in the last two weeks, a surprising but crucial part of the Bulls' late-season resurgence.
Cleveland, who has stepped in as USF's third baseman since starter Brandon Smith was sidelined for the season by a blood clot, has nearly doubled his batting average to .203 in the last 11 days, getting nine of his 16 hits this season in the past eight games. He entered Tuesday's game with four RBIs all season in 74 at-bats, but came through with a key two-run single for the first runs in USF's six-run second inning against the Irish. Cleveland's strong play started with a 5-for-5 day in the Bulls' 9-2 win against St. John's, which avoided a sweep and started the current run of five straight Big East wins.
"He's a senior," coach Lelo Prado said. "It's a good way to go out."
Carlin? A week ago, he had three hits all season, having been used more as a pitcher than a hitter. But after getting game-winning RBI singles in two games against Notre Dame last week, Prado took a gamble and not only inserted Carlin into the starting lineup, but put him second in the batting order. Prado said it was as simple a decision as going with a hot bat.
"That's all we did," Prado said. "He had some big hits against these guys the other day, and again he had some big hits today. Tournament time, you've got to play who's hot. He deserves to play."
Carlin delivered from the start, reaching on a bunt single and stealing second in the first inning. He came through with a bases-loaded single to give USF the lead in the second inning, and later reached base on a walk and a throwing error. Of his nine hits this season, six have come against Notre Dame in the last four games, raising his average to .321.
Bonus: I wasn't the only Times staffer at Bright House Field into the wee hours of Tuesday night, as photographer Joseph Garnett Jr. has a photo gallery of the Bulls' win. Enjoy.
Bonus bonus: Just want to pass along congrats to the Oracle's Kevin Smetana, a friend of the blog who was selected this week by UWire as one of the top 100 student journalists in the country. Well done.