Late errors doom USF in 5-1 loss to Gators
Extra innings. And it could have been extra special.
USF was one run away from arguably its biggest victory ever.
But two throwing errors on one attempted pickoff play in the 12th inning scored the go-ahead run as No. 3 national seed Florida (44-16) beat USF 5-1 at McKethan Stadium on Saturday night.
“Our defense, for most of the night save for one play, was remarkable," said Bulls coach Mark Kingston, whose offense wasn't as dazzling (12 stranded base runners).
"The kids played their hearts out. I had nothing but respect for what I saw tonight, but we were one hit short. We had four or five chances to get one hit. We just didn’t get it.”
USF (42-18), designated the home team for Saturday’s game by virtue of a coin toss, now has to beat Bethune-Cookman in a noon elimination game today to force another matchup with Florida at 7 tonight. It must win there to force a Monday game.
“I don’t have to see that we’re resilient," Kingston said. "The way we played tonight, the way we played all year, shows that we are."
The Bulls outlasted Gators ace and former Alonso High star Alex Faedo, who allowed one run and struck out 10 before leaving in the eighth inning.
Four USF pitchers-- freshman starter Shane McClanahan (who was lifted after a 38-minute lightning delay in the third), Ryan Valdes (another Alonso alumnus), Joe Cavallaro and Andrew Perez --handcuffed the Florida offense.
But Perez tried to pick off Florida pinch-runner Blake Reese with one out in the 12th, and the ball flew past Bulls 1B Joe Genord, enabling Reese to race to third. Genord then threw high and wide of third and Reese scored, giving UF a 2-1 lead.
“It was a pick play. I threw it to him. I guess he wasn’t ready for it," Perez said. "It happens in baseball. At the end of the day you just have to compose yourself.”
That sparked what would evolve into a four-run Gators onslaught, highlighted by Nelson Maldonado's two-run single.
Gators closer Michael Byrne, who worked five scoreless innings, allowed a leadoff single to OF Duke Stunkel Jr. (3-for-5, one RBI) in the bottom of the 12th before retiring the next three batters to end the game.
In his second consecutive night of work, Byrne threw 82 pitches, allowing only three hits and striking out eight.
“This hurts because we were so close," C Andres Leal said.
"It was within our grasp four times; we had men in scoring position four times. We could have won four times. The hits didn’t go our way. They capitalized on the error.”