TAMPA — Seth Romero gave the Houston Cougars six solid innings after closing yesterday’s win to beat South Florida 6-2 and win the weekend series that matched up the first and second place teams in the American Athletic Conference.
Combined with other American scores today, four teams now share the top spot. Memphis East Carolina, Houston and USF all have a share of the top spot with three weekends remaining.
“I told my guys I’m proud of them. Our offense has been up and down this year, but we were really offensive the last two days against a really good pitching staff . That’s as good a staff as we have seen this year, for us to battle to get six runs and 11 hits against them on the road is pretty good. “said Houston head coach Todd Whitting.
USF jumped out to a lead in the fourth today when Kevin Merrell scored on a fielders choice. The lead would be short lived.
Houston came right back with three runs in the fifth when Kyle Survance tripled to score Ian Rice and Ashford Fulmer. Survance score on a sacrifice fly by Josh Vidales to make it 3-1.
USF fought back with a run of their own in the sixth when Merrell scored on a Buddy Putnam single, but would get no closer. Two runs in the seventh and another in the eighth and the Cougars had a 6-2 lead.
An ineffective Patrick Weigel was replaced by lefty Aaron Fletcher and he pitched three shutout inings yielding only two hits for the save. He struck out one and didn’t walk a batter.
Romero finished his day with nine strikeouts featuring a blistering fastball that he seemingly dialed up as needed. He allowed the two runs and scattered seven hits and didn’t issue a walk.
Freshman starter Joe Cavallaro worked into the fifth, surrendering three runs on four hits and struck out seven. Michael Farley, Tommy Peterson and Ryan Valdes each pitched in relief for the Bulls.
Freshman Kevin Merrell had four hits today and is now hitting .326 a tick behind team leader Levi Borders who is at .327.
“He’s a freshman that plays really hard and gets better every week. He’s got the kind of tools we look for – speed, left-handed,” USF head coach Mark Kingston said. “We can play him in the outfield and we can play him at second base. We’re very happy he’s in our program.”
“Yesterday’s game could have gone either way and today’s game got away from us late, but it will not change our resolve,” Kingston said. “Whether we won or lost today does not change our standing nationally or with all the things we’re trying to accomplish at this point. Nobody is going to overreact. We’re just going to continue to try to do the right things and stay the course. We’ll get this thing where it needs to be.”
For those who follow RPI the American Conference ranks third overall behind the SEC and the ACC. That is strong. Seven teams out of eight can still win the conference at this point. USF is number 24 currently and Houston is 26 nationally.
Houston was ranked in the top 10 in our preseason Top 25. Injuries have been major factor for the Cougars since, but they have battled through them. Houston is a good team, USF is a good team, the Cougars were a better team this weekend.
Kyle Survance has the ability to be the best player on the field and clearly was on Saturday and Sunday, going 7 for 10 with with four RBI and with five runs scored.
Coach Whitting told me after the game he is glad Survance he is back to form, “We are going to need him for the stretch run” said Whitting. Thanks to Coach Whitting for allowing me unfettered access to the Cougars this weekend.
Speaking of stretch runs USF is facing the toughest part of their schedule over the next three weeks, with conference road trips to UCF and Tulane and hosting UCF to finish the regular season. With 11 games left and 28 wins, USF remains in the discussion for a regional berth. It will not be easy, but it should be entertaining.
“It should be a lot of fun, that’s our approach. A lot of good baseball here late and we’re going to make the most of it,” Kingston said.