The Bulls, 16-17 (2-4), are on the road for a critical 3-game series in Orlando (Friday at noon, Saturday at 12 noon, and then Sunday at 1 PM). Central Florida enters the series at 18-17 (3-3). The two sides split the season series last year at 3-3.
USF enters the weekend batting .247 as a team while the staff has an ERA of 3.60 on the season (opponents are batting .234 against them on the year). Central Florida is batting .260 as a team and has a staff ERA of 4.47 (opponents are batting .250 against them on the season).
Leading the Knights at the plate is junior outfielder Eli Putnam who is batting .327 on the year with 3 doubles, a home run, 16 RBIs, and has scored 13 runs on the year. Junior infielder Ryan Crile is batting .321 with 7 doubles, 2 home runs, 17 RBIs, has scored 24 runs and is 10 for 14 in steal attempts. Junior infielder Austin Griffin is batting .268 with 9 doubles, 8 home runs (leads the team), 33 RBIs (also leads the team), and has scored 24 runs on the year. They will be facing the USF pitching staff that is led by Phoenix Sanders who is 3-2 on the year with 55 strike outs in 52 innings. Sanders will be looking to bounce back after a bad outing in his last start and if he leaves the game with a lead (or any other starter this weekend), they will be turning the ball over to closer Tommy Eveld who has 6 saves while striking out 39 batters in 29.1 innings of work on the year.
Anchoring the Central Florida staff is junior RHP Robby Howell who is 6-0 (1.28 ERA) after throwing 56.1 innings on the year where he has allowed 39 hits, 12 runs, 16 walks and has struck out 35 batters. Another starter to watch is sophomore Cre Finrock who is 3-2 (2.57 ERA) and has thrown 56 innings, allowing 36 hits, 18 runs, 15 walks and has struck out 57 batters on the year. In late game situations look at junior Trent Thompson who is 2-3 in 15 games with 2 saves. He has thrown 30 innings, allowing 31 hits, 19 runs, 8 walks, and has struck out 16 batters on the season. Their staff will be going up against our young USF lineup that is being led by David Villar who is batting .306 with 4 home runs and 18 RBIs on the season. He along with Garrett Zech, Chris Chatfield and Kevin Merrell, all have to step in this series to help the USF pitching staff and get runs on the board.
This is a critical series for USF who sits in 8th (dead last) and Central Florida who sits in 5th. If USF can win this series, they can move up the rankings and out of the basement. They just have to get it done on the road where it can be tough.