Mark Giardino (@usfbaseballfans)
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Bulls Take 1 out of 3 in New Orleans (by Mark)
This past weekend, the Bulls were on the road once again. It was the first time ever in USF’s 10 year history of playing in the AAC that the Bulls had to start conference play with two straight weekend series on the road.
To top it all off, the Bulls went on the road to two of the toughest teams in the AAC, UCF and Tulane. UCF is the team the Bulls faced in the AAC Championship game last season and Tulane is who the Bulls beat in the semi-finals to get there.
Although the Bulls faced a historically difficult schedule to start conference play, none of us expected that we would lose the first 5 games. The Bulls were swept in Orlando last week and then lost the first two games in New Orleans before salvaging the series finale. Let’s dive into what happened out there.
Friday – Bulls Lose 8 to 5
The Bulls quickly fell in a hole on Friday night when Tulane scored 4 runs in the bottom of the 1st inning. On Friday nights, against the other team’s ace pitcher, that’s always going to be a tough deficit to overcome. The Bulls actually did well to chip away at the deficit, scoring 2 runs in each of the 2nd and 3rd innings. Unfortunately, Tulane responded quickly to the Bulls tying the game. They took the lead again in the bottom of the 3rd and never relinquished it.
Saturday – Bulls Lose 6 to 0
Similar to Friday night, the Bulls quickly fell in a hole in the bottom of the 1st inning when Tulane scored 2 runs. Neither of those runs were earned due to 2 fielding errors by the Bulls. Tulane would go on to score 4 more runs on the night and the Bulls would not score any. The Bulls managed only 5 hits on the night and were held in check by Tulane’s left handed starting pitcher, Dylan Carmouche, a transfer from Mississippi State.
Sunday – Bulls Win 13 to 8
After 1 inning, the game was 0-0 and this allowed the Bulls to strike first in the top of the 2nd on an RBI double from freshman Marcus Brodil. The Bulls got a great start from sophomore Ethan Brown (5 IP, 1 R, 4 K, 1 BB) and gave him solid run support (8-1 lead after 5 innings). Crazily enough, Tulane scored 6 runs in bottom of the 6th inning off of the bullpen but closer Hunter Mink (4 IP, 2 R, 3 K, 0 BB) was able to come in and secure the save and a 13-8 victory.
Takeaways From the Weekend (by Mark)
Although we only won 1 game, there were a lot of positive takeaways from the weekend.
Offensive Stars Back on Track
After a tough weekend against UCF in which the Bulls were 1 hit twice and only scored 4 runs across 3 games, it was great to see the offense wake up. The Bulls got big weekends out of several familiar faces:
Carmine Lane – 7 for 15, a home run and a line of .467/.467/.733 (1.200 OPS)
Daniel Cantu – 4 for 10, 2 walks and a line of .400/.500/.500 (1.000 OPS)
Matt Ruiz – 4 for 10, a home run and did not strike out in any of his 14 plate appearances
Joaquin Monque – 3 for 8, a home run and 2 doubles (all 3 hits for extra bases)
More Than Just an Option
Last week, after the UCF series, we wrote about how the Bulls might have found a new option at starting pitcher. We wrote that after we saw sophomore Ethan Brown pitch 3 scoreless innings (on 38 pitches) against UCF in his first start as a Bull. The only question that remained was whether Brown would be able to stretch out to a traditional starter role (75 or more pitches). The answer is a resounding yes.
Against Tulane this past weekend, Brown threw 5 innings (79 pitches) and held a potent Tulane offense to only 1 run. Brown has now thrown 8 innings against some of the best competition that the AAC has to offer, all on the road. Here’s how he’s done:
You can’t do much better than that. Brown has cemented himself in the starting pitching rotation.
Bulls Face off vs. FGCU Tonight (by Mark)
Tonight, the Bulls are back at home for the beginning of a four game homestand. They will face off against a solid FGCU team (20-12) who is struggling a little bit lately (4 game losing streak).
Who Will Pitch for a Banged up FGCU?
FGCU has not yet announced who their starting pitcher will be tonight. They definitely won’t start any of the pitchers who started this past weekend at Liberty (Shuck, Woodward, Tipton). The last time that FGCU had a mid-week game (4/5/22 vs. Miami), Tipton was the starter for that game too so we don’t get any clues from that.
FGCU also has a starting pitcher who appears to be injured. Sophomore Najer Victor (RHP) was having a great season for the Eagles (32.1 IP, 2.78 ERA, 39 Ks, 13 BB) but he has not appeared in a game since Sunday, April 3rd. If he had to miss a weekend series against a key conference opponent (Liberty), we definitely won’t see him in a mid-week contest.
Pitchers We’re Likely to see from FGCU:
Mason Miller (LHP) – started 3/22 vs. USF but hasn’t started since. 7.66 ERA, 24.2 IP, 6 starts.
Daniel Batcher (LHP) – 51 pitches in 2 relief outings this past weekend. 6.35 ERA, 17 IP, 1 start.
Josh Siels (RHP) – 24 pitches in 1 relief outing this past Saturday. 9.37 ERA, 16.1 IP, 0 starts
Nolan O’Shoney (RHP) – 17 pitches in 2 relief outings last weekend. 1.86 ERA, 9.2 IP, 0 starts.
Who Will Pitch for the Bulls?
Although the official USF Athletics website has not posted a preview article for the FGCU game tonight, I was able to get some information from FGCU’s website.
According to the preview article on FGCU’s site, the probable starting pitcher tonight for the Bulls is senior left handed pitcher Joseph Sanchez. In Sanchez’s last outing against FGCU, a March 22nd relief appearance, he pitched 3 innings and only allowed 1 run on 3 hits.
I would also expect the Bulls to work in sophomore relief pitchers Tanner Mink (RHP) and Caleb Pundsack (LHP) both of whom have not appeared in a game since last week’s April 5th mid-week contest against UNF. I’d also like to see freshman Tommy Groom (RHP) who hasn’t appeared since that game either and holds a 0.00 ERA through 5.2 innings.
The Bulls pitchers will have their work cut out for them against a veteran batting order that ranks top 30 in division 1 for hitting (.302 team batting average).
After tonight’s game, the Bulls will be back in action on Thursday at 6:30 PM vs. Memphis at home. There will also be games on Friday (4:00 PM) and Saturday (11:00 AM). No game on Sunday due to the Easter Holiday.