Samford baseball drops two games to USF in Tampa
With the hype surrounding head coach Casey Dunn’s squad heading into the 2019 season, the Bulldogs traveled down to Tampa, Florida this past weekend to open up their season against the USF Bulls.
Having been picked to repeat as Southern Conference champions by the conference’s coaches and media, many were interested to see if the Bulldogs could pick up the momentum where they left off last May in Tallahassee.
A three game series with the Bulls proved to be a great early-season test, as Samford posted a record of 1-2 in the series.
Game one featured a start from the Southern Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year, sophomore Sam Strickland. A less than stellar performance from the left-hander for the Bulldogs, combined with great pitching from USF resulted in Samford being handed a 4-7 loss.
Strickland, who posted an 8-2 record with a 2.33 ERA last season, pitched four innings, allowing five runs on six hits. He added five strikeouts and two walks to his total.
Junior Luke Corbin threw two scoreless innings in relief for the Bulldogs, while freshman Eric Sottile threw his first pitches as a Bulldog, recording a scoreless inning of his own.
At the plate for the Bulldogs, junior shortstop Branden Fryman finished three for five with two runs scored and an RBI. Fryman’s three hits helped him register the 38th multi-hit game of his career.
The Bulls tacked on five runs in the first three innings, much in part of the hot-start from freshman shortstop Nick Gonzalez. Samford got on the board in the fourth inning by way of Fryman’s RBI double, but could never catch up in the end.
In game two, senior Jess McCord took the mound for the Bulldogs. McCord, not having thrown a pitch for Samford since the 2017 season, pitched 4 ⅓ innings, giving up three runs on five hits, while striking out two batters.
Seniors Connor Radcliff and Stephen Jones combined to throw 4 ⅔ innings of scoreless relief, striking out five batters and only allowing two hits.
The Bulldogs’ offense had an extremely productive game at the plate. Junior Ayrton Schafer finished four for five with two doubles and two RBIs on the day. Sophomore Brooks Carlson and freshman Preston Moore both added two hits a piece for the Bulldogs. Moore, who started all three games of the series at third base, hit his first career home run in the fifth inning to give Samford the lead by a score of 5-1.
After USF cut the lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Schafer doubled in two runs in the top of the seventh to increase the lead to 7-3, which is how the game would end giving Samford its first victory of the season. Connor Radcliff was given the win, while USF senior Alec Wisely was handed the loss.
Zach Hester took the ball for the Bulldogs in series finale and looked sharp on the mound overall. Hester threw four innings, allowing only two runs on four hits, while striking out six Bulls batters. A low scoring game accompanied by a strong performance from both pitching staffs resulted in a 4-1 win in favor of USF.
In relief of Hester, Samford used five different pitchers, starting off with sophomore Billy Creger, who pitched 1 ⅔ innings, giving up only one hit and striking out two.
At the plate for Samford, Carlson and freshman catcher Kaden Dreier both had two hits for the Bulldogs, representing four of the seven total hits for the team in the game. Dreier, a freshman from Brentwood, Tennessee, recorded his first start in relief of sophomore Anthony Mulrine who got the day off. Preston Moore, junior Taylor Garris, and senior Jordan Fucci all added a hit to Samford’s total.
Moore knocked in the Bulldogs’ only run of the day with an RBI-single in the top of the second to put Samford up by a score of 1-0. That is all the Bulldogs could produce for the day, as USF would add runs in the second, seventh, and eighth to secure the series finale win.
The Bulls were helped out by another strong performance from freshman Nick Gonzalez, who finished three for five at the plate. Junior Ben Koff threw 4⅔ innings of scoreless relief for USF, striking out seven Bulldogs at the plate. Koff was handed the win, while Hester was given the loss.
Samford’s record moved to 1-2 to start the season. The Bulldogs will traveled home for their home opener at Joe Lee Griffin Field on Tuesday, February 19 at 4 p.m. CST against North Alabama.
Samford will host Xavier for its first home series of the season. The Bulldogs will host the Musketeers for a three game series (Feb. 22-24), with first pitch times set for 4 p.m, 2 p.m. and 1 p.m. all CST with hopes they will be able to get over their poor start.