Mark Giardino (@usfbaseballfans)
John Kaplan (@JohnnyKII)
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For this article, we want to share our reaction to the FIU game and take an in depth look at a very interesting weekend opponent (Mercer) who comes to Tampa with a 15-2 record.
- What is your reaction to the mid-week game at FIU earlier this week?
Bulls won 14 to 8 – Bulls Get the Job Done in Miami
Bulls Punch Back When Hit (By Mark)
I continue to be impressed by the Bulls’ ability to respond when the other team comes out and lands some early punches on them. FIU scored 4 runs in the bottom of the 1st inning which immediately put the Bulls in a hole.
Top of the 2nd – Quick Response
However, in the top of the 2nd inning the Bulls put up 6 runs to reclaim the lead. The Bulls rally was sparked by RBI base hits from Matt Ruiz, Carmine Lane, and Ben Rozenblum. A wild pitch by FIU brought in a run as well. FIU’s lack of control on the mound was a theme throughout the night as they handed out 20 free passes (15 walks, 5 hit by pitch).
Top of the 6th – Another Counterpunch
In the bottom of the 5th inning, FIU reclaimed the lead. Entering the top of the 6th inning, the Bulls trailed 8 to 7. However, as the Bulls have done many times this season, they responded with a quick counterpunch. With 1 out and runners on 2nd and 3rd, USF junior utility player Roberto Peña absolutely destroyed an 0-1 fastball deep over the left field fence and into the Miami night. The Bulls took a 10 to 8 lead that they would not relinquish.
Bulls’ Bullpen Holds the Lead (By Mark)
What can Brown do for you?
A big shout out to USF sophomore left handed pitcher, Ethan Brown, for coming into the game in the bottom of the 6th inning and shutting FIU down. Ethan pitched a scoreless inning highlighted by a strikeout and not allowing any hits. His performance was key in making sure the Bulls maintained the momentum that Peña’s home run provided.
Fireballer Finds his Form
After Ethan Brown handled the bottom of the 6th inning, the Bulls tacked on 4 runs in the top of the 7th to really break the game open. Midway through the 7th inning, the Bulls held a 14 to 8 lead. To pitch the bottom of the 7th, Coach Mohl called upon freshman Tyler Dietz. Tyler had appeared 3 previous times on the season for the Bulls, all in relief. In each appearance, he had shown electric stuff (fastball up to 96 mph) but had not quite gotten the results he wanted.
In Miami, Tyler was able to put it all together and gave the Bulls 2 scoreless innings highlighted by 2 strikeouts, not walking any batters, and only allowing 1 hit. The strong showing should serve as a confidence boost and give the talented freshman some momentum going into his next outing.
- What should Bulls fans look out for when Mercer comes to town this weekend?
As we mentioned in the intro, Mercer is a solid team that comes in with a 15-2 record and has won mid-week games over Florida State and Georgia Tech. We took a deep dive into both Mercer’s pitching staff and batting order to find out what has made this team so effective.
An In-Depth Look at Mercer’s Pitchers (By John)
Weekend Starters (probable):
Friday (3/18) – Josh Harlow (3-0) – 19.1 IP, 3.26 ERA, 32/7 K/BB
Saturday (3/19) – Tanner Hall (1-1) – 12.2 IP, 3.55 ERA, 12/2 K/BB
Sunday (3/20) – Josh Farmer (3-0) – 15.1 IP, 1.17 ERA, 16/4 K/BB
Alternate (TBD) – Wesley Franklin (1-0) – 11.1 IP, 0.79 ERA, 14/3 K/BB
*** listed pitching record is only for games started
A Formidable Pitching Rotation Coming to Tampa
This weekend may be the Bulls’ toughest test to-date at the plate, facing off against a Mercer pitching staff that has been lights out this season. Opposing teams are hitting only .184 against Mercer’s pitchers. The Mercer pitching staff has also struck out 5 times as many batters as they’ve walked with 200 Ks in 151 IP.
To start the season, it was thought that Tanner Hall (Grad-LHP) was going to be the anchor of this rotation, however some new & upcoming names for the Bears have stormed onto the scene & are worth noting.
Mercer’s Friday night starter is Josh Harlow (RHP-Fr); in 4 appearances this season, Harlow has tossed 19.1 innings, striking out 32 batters to just 7 walks. While he has given up the most HR of any pitcher on the staff this season (5), there doesn’t appear to be many holes in his game.
The aforementioned Tanner Hall will get the start on Saturday. Hall has been pitching in college since the spring of 2017. That’s right, he’s a 6th year senior. He started his career at Division II Armstrong Atlantic State and transferred to Mercer after 1 season there. He is able to play a 6th year of college baseball because of a COVID year (2020) and he sat out last season (2021) to recover from Tommy John surgery.
On Sunday, the Bulls will likely face off against either Josh Farmer (RHP-Jr) or Wesley Franklin (RHP-So). Farmer has not dropped a start this season, pitching to the tune of a 1.17 ERA, 16/4 strikeout-to-walk-ratio, & hasn’t allowed a long ball yet this season. Franklin on the other hand has only made one start for Mercer but did well. Against Saint Peters this past weekend, he tossed 5 scoreless frames & fanned 7 batters.
Mercer Relief Pitchers
Mercer also boasts a solid bullpen. Headlined by Avery Stephens (RHP-Fr) & Jackson Kelley (RHP-Jr), these two have combined for 26.2 innings in relief, allowing only 2 earned runs, with a 41/4 strike out-to-walk-ratio.
Two more names to note are Garrett Sloan (RHP-So) & Jaxon O’neal (LHP-Fr). In 8.2 IP (9 total appearances), these two underclassmen have yet to allow a hit or earned run to date, while also posting an impressive 13/2 strikeout-to-walk-ratio in the process.
Lastly, is the closer, Luke Sutko (RHP-Sr); with an ERA of 0.00, not much else needs to be said to demonstrate his effectiveness thus far this season. Appearing in 7 games this season (9.2 IP), Sutko has struck out 11 batters, allowing only 5 hits in the process.
Mercer’s Batting Order – A Cheat Sheet (By Mark)
As you can see from the photo above, Mercer has a well rounded lineup, highlighted by 3rd year outfielder Colby Thomas who projects as a top 10 round MLB Draft pick in this year’s draft. Besides Thomas, I think the main player to look out for is 1st year freshman Treyson Hughes. He was a highly ranked recruit in the 2021 high school class and is off to a hot start in college baseball (.471 batting average).
Conclusion (By Mark)
Overall, I’m very excited to see our Bulls take on a solid team like Mercer. It’s Mercer’s first road trip of the season as all 17 of their games have been played at home. Let’s give them a rude awakening to life on the road when they come to Tampa on Friday night.