TAMPA — Trailing 4-0 and down to their last six outs the University of South Florida rallied for nine runs in the eighth inning to overwhelm the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Bulls season opener at USF Baseball Stadium Friday Night. The Bulls sent 14 batters to the plate in the inning and scored six runs with two outs. Freshman D.J Roberts picked up the win in his first college baseball action for the Bulls and Andrew Perez pitched a scoreless ninth to seal the victory.
Iowa scored single runs int he first, fifth , seventh and eighth behind the stellar pitching of Nick Gallagher, The Hawkeye right-hander allowed just one run on six hits, displaying elite command, pitching into the eighth before turning over the game to the Iowa bullpen. At one point he retired 14 Bulls hitters in a row until he walked David Villar to start the eighth.
Coco Montes followed the Villar walk with a base hit. Kevin Merrell’s hustle on a potential double play set the Bulls up with runners on first and third. Chris Chatfield followed with a single to left, plating the first run for USF in 2017. Luke Borders then sent a line drive to center for a triple to knock in two more runs. Borders was thrown out at home attempting to stretch the triple into and inside the park home run and the Bulls trailed 4-3
With two out Joe Genord walked. Garret Zach entered as a pinch runner and promptly stole second and went to third on a throwing error. Duke Stunkel Jr. walked and Tyler Dietrich was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Cameron Montgomery.
Montgomery delivered a two run double to right field to give the Bulls there first lead of the night 5-4. David Villar and Kevin Merrell each added two run singles for a 9-4 lead
“I just think we stayed with it,” said Bulls coach Mark Kingston. “I told the guys we were gonna stay calm, we did, and it just started turning for us.”
Coach Kingston often refers to the growth of his players and tonight there was plenty on display.
Chris Chatfield and Cameron Montgomery came up big the the eighth with at bats that probably don’t happen last year.
Chatfield with an opposite field single with two strikes to score the Bulls first run and later in the inning, Montgomery with yet another opposite field hit, a two-run double.
Andrew Perez pitched the ninth and showed off an electric fastball and much improved command.
Joe Cavallaro entered the game as a reliever after being the Bulls Sunday starter for most of his first two years. He allowed one run in two innings of work in a role that seems to fit him just fine.
Phoenix Sanders was steady as he always is and gave the Bulls a chance to come back and win the game.
“I thought he was great,” Kingston said. “What was great to see is that he matched up with a Friday night starter. Last year, maybe that’s a game we would’ve lost.
Coco Montes had three hit and Merrell, Chatfield and Borders combined for six hits and five RBI at the top of the order.