July 15, 2024

Tigers Falter in Game Two Against Bulls, Setting Stage for Decisive Sunday Showdown

Tigers Falter in Game Two Against Bulls, Setting Stage for Decisive Sunday Showdown

In a pivotal second game of their American Athletic Conference series, The  Memphis Baseball team couldn’t contain a surging South Florida side, falling 9-5 on Saturday at USF Baseball Stadium. The defeat brought the Tigers’ season record to a precarious 12-13 (1-1 AAC), while the Bulls improved to a slightly better 13-10 (1-1 AAC). With the series knotted at one game each, the stage is set for a tension-filled rubber match on Sunday.

Memphis head coach Matt Riser didn’t mince words about the performance. “Tough day. We didn’t play very well in any phase of the game,” he lamented. Despite the struggles, the team was a swing away from snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, leaving Riser optimistic about the Tigers’ grit. “You played that poorly and still had a chance to win it against their guys and closer,” he noted, eyeing improvements for the series finale.

The Early Onslaught and the Tigers’ Response

The Bulls charged out of the gates with a four-run barrage in the first inning, punctuated by Jackson Mayo‘s RBI single and a two-run contribution from Stewart Puckett. A passed ball later allowed John Montes to dash home, setting a daunting tone for the Tigers.

USF’s lead expanded to 5-0 in the fourth, courtesy of another RBI single from the bat of Montes. But Memphis showed signs of life in the fifth inning. Seth Cox‘s fielder’s choice got Jake Curtis across the plate, and Austin Baskin followed with an RBI single to cut the deficit to three runs.

Freshman RHP Malik Harris provided a silver lining with three shutout innings, suggesting future depth in the Tigers’ pitching arsenal. This defensive effort set the stage for a late-game rally, with Memphis inching within a run in the eighth after a USF error allowed two runs to score.

A Grand Slam and a Missed Opportunity

The Bulls, however, had answers of their own. Montes delivered a crushing blow with a grand slam in the eighth, giving USF a comfortable five-run cushion. The Tigers’ ninth-inning rally loaded the bases, but a single run was all they could produce, with Jacob Compton’s RBI single falling short of a comeback.

Notable Performances and Upcoming Challenges

Compton, Pierre Seals, and Curtis each notched two hits, with Compton driving in his 29th run of the season. Stuart and Baskin continued their impressive on-base streaks, providing a consistent offensive presence that the Tigers will rely on in the series finale.

Despite the efforts of Alex Fernandes and the rest of the lineup, the Tigers’ pitching couldn’t keep pace. LHP Luke Ellis, in his sixth start, absorbed the loss, his third of the season, despite striking out three and walking three.

Looking Ahead

All eyes will be on USF Baseball Stadium come noon CT on Sunday, as the Tigers and Bulls clash to conclude what has been an intensely fought series. Memphis will seek to clean up its game and harness the moments of brilliance it showcased, even in defeat. With series bragging rights and conference standings on the line, the rubber match promises to be a battle to the last out.

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