Baseball takes down USF in extra-inning thriller

Riley Platt, Sports Editor

TAMPA, Fla. – The University of North Florida Ospreys took it to the University of South Florida, defeating the in-state foe 5-4 in extra innings on Tuesday.

For much of the season, newcomer Jakob Runnels has been a weapon at the plate for the Ospreys, hitting nine home runs and driving in 37 home runs this season. Tuesday’s game was no different, as the UNF catcher produced the game-winning hit.

Redshirt sophomore Avery Love took the mound for the Ospreys to start the evening. The Callahan, Fla. native tossed two-plus scoreless innings before USF’s Joaquin Monque connected on a solo home run to get the Bulls on the board.

Down 1-0, UNF got right to work. With two runners on base, a defensive error by the Bulls allowed UNF center fielder Austin Brinling to score and tie the game 1-1. A fielder’s choice and a Cade Reich double drove in two more runs to push the Ospreys ahead 3-1.

As if on cue, USF struck right back in the bottom of the fourth inning. In the lead-off spot, USF shortstop Eric Snow rocketed a home run to left field to bring the Bulls back within one. A pair of defensive errors by the Ospreys put them in position for more, allowing another USF run to rein the score back in to 3-3.

Matthew Clements batting
Matthew Clements made an impact, both offensively and defensively, in Tuesday’s win vs. USF. (Justin Nedrow)

Following this, the UNF offense went dry. The Ospreys produced just one hit over a five-inning stretch that lasted through the ninth. Despite the overall lack of success, it looked as though that one hit would be all UNF needed. Matthew Clement’s sacrifice groundout scored Reich to give the Ospreys a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh.

Going into the ninth inning, the Bulls needed a run to stay alive. A Rafael Betancourt triple put pressure on UNF pitching, forcing a wild pitch that allowed the pinch runner to score and tie the game 4-4. Junior Lance Bolton was able to survive the remainder of the inning unscathed, sending the game into extras.

In a game full of errors, it was exactly this that cost USF dearly. A defensive mistake by the Bulls allowed Brinling to move all the way to third base with just one out. Runnels then did his thing, knocking an RBI single into center field to give UNF a 5-4 lead.

Jakob Runnels at the plate
Jakob Runnels has thrived on offense in 2023, producing a .354 batting average. (Justin Nedrow)

It wasn’t stress-free, but a clutch throwout by third baseman Clements put the game away, securing the win for UNF. Like many of the team’s wins this season, Tuesday’s showdown featured plenty of back and forth. 

This doesn’t seem to phase the Ospreys, though, as they have once again proven that they don’t let their circumstances define them. 

It’ll be a short turnover for UNF, who returns home to open up a three-game series against ASUN opponent Jacksonville State. While the Ospreys have played well in non-league play, the conference slate has been tricky thus far.

The Ospreys will have a chance to improve their 4-5 ASUN record against the Gamecocks this weekend at Harmon Stadium.


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