Record crowd, but Bulls lose home opener 4-3
TAMPA -- Playing the first game in its new stadium, USF baseball had the perfect weather, the record crowd, a first-inning home run to set the tone and a strong seven scoreless innings from starter Randy Fontanez on Friday night.
But with a record 3,126 fans looking on, USF's bullpen couldn't hold the lead, and Elon, down 3-0 in the eighth, rallied for a 4-3 win to keep the Bulls winless in 2011. Shortstop Sam Mende, who had the stadium's first home run in his first at-bat, had a chance at another memory with two on and two out in the 10th, but he struck out swinging to end the game.
"The home run was my one lonely hit of the night, so I didn't do much for us at the end," Mende said. "We just have to come out tomorrow with the same fire. Hopefully the crowd comes out and supports us even though we blew our opening night here. Hopefully we'll do something better tomorrow."
USF (0-4) had only five hits, and none after Daniel Rockhold's solo home run in the sixth. The Bulls had gotten solid relief from closer Kevin Quackenbusch, who struck out seven batters in 2.1 innings. Brought back out for the 10th, he walked two batters, threw a passed ball, then intentionally walked the bases loaded. Reliever Zach Pietrzyk got one strikeout but issued a bases-loaded walk to give the Phoenix (4-1) the lead before ending the inning with another strikeout.
"Everything was working great -- we had it planned the way we wanted it," coach Lelo Prado said. "I probably shouldn't have thrown (Quackenbush) out there for three innings, but we're trying to win the game, and that happens. That can't happen if we're going to be a championship team. Tomorrow's another day and we've got to bounce back. ... The community came out. I'm so excited. The atmosphere here tonight is what I'm looking for."