Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

Junior David Villar's seventh-inning home run propels USF past its I-4 rival
Published April 22, 2018

After a two-hour weather delay Saturday evening at USF, the remote local threat of lightning finally dissipated.

The postseason intensity never did.

For the second consecutive night, the UCF-USF baseball series delivered, this time with the Bulls (25-14, 8-6) eking out a 5-4 triumph courtesy of David Villar's two-out, two-run home run to right field in the bottom of the seventh.

"That's what you look for your captain to do," Bulls coach Billy Mohl said on USF's postgame radio broadcast. "He put us on his back and gave us the lead."

The rubber match is set for today at 1 p.m.

One night after the pitching staffs combined to allow three hits in UCF's 1-0 triumph, another pitching duel appeared poised to materialize. Bulls senior RHP Peter Strzelecki (eight strikeouts, one walk) particularly sparkled early, retiring 10 consecutive batters after issuing a leadoff walk.

He had a one-hitter — and a 3-0 cushion — entering the fifth, where he hit No. 7 batter Griffin Bernardo to start the inning. He then allowed consecutive singles to Max Wood and Jackson Webb, the second of which scored Bernardo.

By inning's end, UCF (27-13, 7-7) had tied the score on four hits and an error.

"He was a little tired," Mohl said. "He got loose, then he sat for two hours (due to the weather delay), but he gave us everything he had."

Villar followed two innings later with his eighth homer of the season, this one off Knights reliever Eric Hepple, who was brought in to face Villar with two out and Coco Montes on second base.

Hepple's predecessor, junior RHP Chris Williams, scattered five hits over 6 2/3 innings. He surrendered three runs off three hits in the third, highlighted by Montes' RBI-single and Villar's RBI-sacrifice fly.

LHP Kevin King worked two scoreless innings in relief for the Bulls, while LHP Andrew Perez earned a four-out save, his sixth of the year.