Mark Giardino (@USFBaseballFans)
Matthew Giardino (@BasesOnBulls)
Welcome back to the It’s Brewin at McEwen blog. Make sure you subscribe to our email list below so you don’t miss any of our posts.
For this article, we want to share our reaction to a big series win against Mercer, a road victory over FGCU in Ft. Myers, and take a look ahead at a weekend series with Niagara.
- What is your reaction to the series win against Mercer?
Game 1 – Bulls won 10 to 2 – Bulls Make a Loud Statement
Pitching Duo Performs (By Mark)
For the 2nd consecutive week, Bulls sophomore pitcher Orion Kerkering got the start on Friday night. He delivered another solid performance going 6 innings, allowing only 1 earned run, and striking out 7 batters en route to picking up the win. The draft eligible sophomore right handed pitcher now holds a 2.25 ERA on the season and has struck out 43 batters in 28 innings for a remarkable pace of 13.8 strikeouts per 9 innings.
The victory was sealed by junior left handed pitcher Devin Hemenway who worked 3 scoreless innings in relief of Kerkering. Hemenway did not allow any hits, struck out 2 batters, and picked up his first save of the season.
Big Night at the Plate for the Bulls (By Mark)
The Bulls only had 1 hit through 3 innings but the bats woke up in the 4th. The scoring got started when sophomore outfielder Daniel Cantu hit a single up the middle to drive in 2 runs with the bases loaded. Later in the inning, sophomore outfielder Drew Brutcher drove an 0-1 hanging breaking ball to deep center for a 2 run home run to give the Bulls a 5 to 1 lead.
In the 5th inning, the Bulls had another offensive explosion. After junior first baseman Roberto Peña drew a 1 out walk, the trio of Jackson Mayo, Matt Ruiz, and Daniel Cantu rattled off three straight extra base hits to make the score 8 to 2 in favor of the Bulls. Also notable in that inning was the at bat from sophomore catcher, Nelson Rivera, who fought through a 1-2 count with multiple foul offs to get the count to 3-2 before he hit a liner to left for a single.
The scoring for the night was completed with an exclamation point in the bottom of the 7th inning when Jackson Mayo drove a 1-2 fastball over the right field fence for his 3rd home run of the season and a 10 to 2 Bulls lead. The freshman outfielder from St. Johns, Florida is off to a torrid start in his young Bulls career slashing .318/.434/.591 for a 1.025 OPS which ranks 4th on the team. Mayo is becoming a much welcomed everyday staple in the Bulls lineup.
Game 2 – Bulls lost 14 to 6 – The Bears Even the Series
Saturday Scaries? (By Mark)
For the third straight weekend, the Bulls came out a bit flat on Saturday after pulling off a Friday night win. I wouldn’t look too much into it, but it would be nice to see the Bulls follow up a Friday night win with another good performance the next day.
In fact, the Bulls were held hitless through 6 and 2/3 innings before finally having a little bit of a breakout in the 7th inning in which they had 5 hits and scored 4 runs. The Bulls did all of that damage with 2 outs. Jarrett Eaton got the rally started with an infield single. Later in the inning, Drew Brutcher would drive him in with a single of his own.
Making the Most of an Opportunity (By Mark)
Perhaps the most impressive hitter in Saturday’s game was sophomore catcher Joaquin Monque. He entered the game in the top of the 7th to catch for Ben Rozenblum and got his first at bat in the bottom of the 7th. With 2 outs and 2 runners on, Monque ripped a line drive into the left field gap for a double and 2 RBIs. Monque came up again in the bottom of the 9th and hit another line drive into the left field gap for a double and an RBI.
Monque’s RBI double in the 9th gave the Bulls their 6th and final run of the day. Although the Bulls came up short, it was good to see the bats show some life before heading into Sunday’s rubber match.
Game 3 – Bulls won 3 to 2 – Bulls Fight Like a Bunch of Dogs
Slow Start on Sunday (By Mark)
The Bulls had another slow start on Sunday except this time the issues were on defense and baserunning. In the top of the 1st inning, the Bulls made 3 errors which resulted in a run for Mercer. Then in the bottom of the 2nd, the Bulls were picked off at 1st base. After a home run for Mercer in the top of the 4th, the Bulls were down 2 to 0. Fortunately, the Bulls’ pitchers (#ArmFarm) stepped up big time and kept the game close.
Heroic Pitching Efforts Give Bulls a Chance (By Mark)
As the Bulls offense was held in check throughout the day, the only way to keep the game close was to pitch really well. Sophomore right handed pitcher Jack Jasiak returned after a 15 day hiatus which was a big sigh of relief for Bulls Nation. Clearly on a pitch count (54 pitches), Jasiak gave the Bulls 3.1 innings and only allowed 1 earned run.
Hunter Mink Continues to Dominate (By Mark)
After that, the Bulls turned to Hunter Mink who usually stars as the team’s closer (5 saves). I’ve always liked the concept of bringing in your closer early if the stakes are high enough. With a series on the line against a Mercer team that was receiving votes in top-25 polls coming into the weekend, I was really happy to see the Bulls’ coaching staff go for it all by bringing in Hunter in the 4th inning.
Hunter delivered an outstanding and gritty performance. He threw 3.2 scoreless innings and only allowed 1 hit in the process. He threw 68 pitches which is the longest he has been stretched out in his entire college career (2020 & 2021 at UF). In the 4th inning he stranded a runner (inherited) on 3rd and in the 5th inning he got out of a bases loaded jam showing ability to buckle down, focus and compete when the pressure was on.
The Houdini (By Mark)
The final Bulls pitcher to appear was Nolan Hudi. The freshman left handed pitcher held Mercer scoreless in both the 8th and 9th innings. Hudi was hitting his spots and generated swing and miss on his breaking ball which he kept down in the zone well. His performance set the stage for a great bottom of the 9th.
Playoff Atmosphere in March – Epic Comeback (By Mark)
This 9th inning was one to remember. As someone who was in Clearwater, Gainesville, and Austin during last season’s run to the Super Regionals, I can tell you that the end of this game had a postseason feel to it. Not surprisingly, some familiar contributors from that 2021 team had a big influence on this comeback.
The inning started with Ben Rozenblum lining out to first base. He hit the ball well and almost sent it down the right field line but the first baseman just made a really good defensive play. That brought up sophomore infielder Matt Ruiz who battled out of an 0-2 hole to get a clutch base hit which sparked the rally. Freshman outfielder Jackson Mayo then walked on 4 pitches followed by a good at bat from Roberto Peña in which the count went full and he ultimately walked.
With the bases loaded and 1 out, sophomore outfielder Daniel Cantu drove a ball deep enough to center field to bring in the Bulls’ first run via sac fly.
Now with 2 outs, runners on 1st and 2nd, and the Bulls trailing 2 to 1, sophomore catcher Joaquin Monque came up to the plate. Before he could even dig into the batters box he was hit by a pitch to load the bases once again.
Now there are 2 outs, bases loaded, and the Bulls still down 2 to 1. Who better to come up to bat than last season’s postseason hero, junior outfielder Jarrett Eaton. The Bulls needed a great at bat and they got it. After quickly going down in a hole 0-2, Eaton was able to lay off the 3rd pitch, a fastball that just missed outside. He then fouled off the 4th pitch to keep the game alive. On a 1-2 count, the 5th pitch of the at bat was a wild pitch which allowed the tying run to score.
Eaton ultimately drew a walk to reload the bases yet again. Now with the game tied and still 2 outs, sophomore third baseman Carmine Lane came up to bat. Just last Sunday, Lane hit a walk off home run to beat Bradley. Apparently he really enjoyed that experience and wanted to do it again. Lane took a 1-0 offering and sent it right back up the middle for a base hit and a walk off victory by a score of 3 to 2. Comeback complete.
- Reaction to the big win down in Ft. Myers
Mid-Week Madness: Bulls Rout Eagles 16 to 7
Bulls Bats Stay Hot, Defense Has An Error Free Day (By Matt)
The Bulls offense exploded with 5 home runs in Ft. Myers, including 2 from Drew Brutcher and 1 each from Roberto Peña, Carmine Lane and Matt Ruiz. The Bulls now have 30 home runs in 21 games which is more than half (57) of their 61 game total from last season.
Roberto Peña continued his strong hitting with a monster night at the plate against FGCU in which he went 3-4 with 4 Rs, 2B, HR, 3 RBIs, and a BB. Chamo was a huge part of our success last season. After being away for an extended part of the season earlier this year, he is starting to look a lot like the guy that tied for the team lead in home runs last season.
Another exciting aspect of Tuesday’s offensive performance was Jarrett Eaton coming into the game as a pinch hitter in the top of the 7th and drilling a 2 RBI double off the wall in right field. Jarrett, who was also a big part of the team’s 2021 postseason run, has been stringing together great at bats as of late. He is looking patient and confident at the plate, just as he did against some of the top pitching in the nation in the 2021 postseason. We are glad to see BIG DOG getting back into a groove as he is one of the most dynamic guys on our roster.
The top pitching performances from this game came from senior lefty Joseph Sanchez, sophomore righty Tanner Mink, and freshman righty Austin Grause. This trio combined to allow only 1 run in 6 innings of relief work. Notable was the return of Grause who had not appeared in a game since March 2nd. The end of Grause’s 20 day hiatus was a welcome sight for Bulls fans who are excited about the freshman who holds a 0.00 ERA through 5.2 innings.
- What should Bulls fans look out for when the team faces off with Niagara this weekend?
Niagara’s Batting Lineup (By Matt)
Niagara comes into this weekend series with a less than impressive record of 2-15, and to make things more challenging for the Purple Eagles, they have had 4 out of their last 8 contests canceled due to inclement weather.
When looking at their overall roster, they have some impressive talent that has not lived up to their potential. Two players that were standouts for the Purple Eagles last season were 1B Cole Tucker (batted .391 in 2021) and RF Cole O’Connor (batted .385 in 2021) but they have yet to find their way in the first 17 games of the 2022 season. The pair currently combine for a .272, with just a single home run on the year to go with 17 RBIs.
While the pair have underperformed this season, they still have the 2 top batting averages on the team which says a lot about the overall ineffectiveness at the plate this season for Niagara. As a whole, the Purple Eagles come into Friday’s game slashing .223/.308/.330 after slashing .276/.363/.404 just a season ago.
Overall, Niagara has one starter in their lineup with above an .800 OPS, and his name is Josh Marchese, SR 1B/DH. Marchese comes into the weekend series tied for the team lead in HRs (4) with CF Dawson Bailey.
Niagara’s Pitching Rotation (By Matt)
In terms of pitching, Niagara is expected to go with Evan Wilde, JR LHP (FRI), Jacob Bruning, SR LHP (SAT), and Marcus Cashman JR RHP (SUN). The trio has combined to start 13 of Niagara’s 17 games this season and have given up 46 ER in 67 IP for a 6.18 ERA to go with 68 SO to 42 BB for a SO/BB Ratio of 1.61.
The lone bright spot in the Purple Eagle’s starting weekend rotation has been Marcus Cashman being able to hold opposing batters to a .200 BA, as well as owning a staff best 1.26 WHIP.
Out of the pen, the Purple Eagle’s like to use both Chaz DeLuca (GS) LHP, and Marty Cole (SR), who played his first 2 seasons with Niagra as an IF. The duo has combined to pitch 23 innings this season all in relief while giving up 13 ER with 23 SO to 10 BB. Cole in particular will be a guy to look out for if pressure situations arise. He is coming in with the hot hand, giving up only 2 ER in his last 10.1 IP after a forgettable first outing of the year in which he gave up 4 ER in .1 IP vs. Western Carolina.
Will the law of averages foresee a better remainder to the season than the first 17 games for the Purple Eagles? Most likely, but I see the Bulls having a great weekend during this series, continuing to build on the success at the plate they have seen in the last 10 games. And with Jack Jasiak making his return to the bump last weekend, I believe we are in for a very fun and exciting weekend at The Red.