USF Baseball: Bulls begin the 2017 season with Iowa

Posted: February 17, 2017 in Baseball
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And here we go.

Baseball is back as the Bulls, after a 24-33  (17-18 at home), 2016 campaign, begin the new year with 3-game series against Iowa (Friday and Saturday at 6:30 PM followed by 1 PM on Sunday). Iowa went 30-26 last year including a 7-15 mark away from home. 

USF notes: The Bulls batted .248 as a team last year, being led by Kevin Merrell who led the team with a .320 average. The team should return Levi Borders who played in just 16 games before missing the rest of the year due to a viral infection. The USF batting order also returns Garrett Zech and Chris Chatfield to its ranks, both coming off of promising rookie seasons in 2016.

The USF pitching staff had a 4.43 ERA last year and held opponents to a .255 average against them. The staff lost Tommy Eveld and Brandon Lawson to the MLB draft last year, but does return several arms including weekend starter Phoenix Sanders who went 5-5 last year (4.15 ERA) and several other pitchers like Shane McClanahan (scheduled to start on Saturday), who missed all of last year due to various injuries.

Iowa offense: The Hawkeyes batted .280 as a team last year but lost several of their top bats at the end of the season (graduation and MLB draft).

Top returning batters from last year:

Robert Neustrom – Sophomore – Outfielder – 6’3″ 200 lbs. – .307 average (52 games), 6 doubles, 21 RBIs, 24 runs scored, 9 for 13 in steal attempts.

Mason McCoy – Senior – Infielder – 6′ 175 lbs. – .291 average (56 games), 12 doubles, 2 home runs, 34 RBIs, 37 runs scored, 7 for 11 in steal attempts.

Iowa pitching: The Hawkeyes had a staff ERA of 3.54 last year and held opponents to a .252 average.

Top returning pitchers from last year:

Nick Gallagher – Sophomore – RHP – 6’3″ 200 lbs. – 8-3 last year (14 games, 4 starts), 2.57 ERA, 63 innings, allowing 49 hits, 20 runs, 22 walks and 59 strike outs.

CJ Eldred – Redshirt junior – RHP – 6’1″ 220 lbs. – 3-8 (16 games, 14 starts), 3.43 ERA, 94.1 innings, 99 hits, 41 runs, 25 walks, 63 strike outs.

Zach Daniels – Sophomore – RHP – 5’11” 150 lbs. – 1-1, 5 saves (16 games), 1.50 ERA, 18 innings, 14 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks and 15 strike outs.

Predictions: Iowa is a pretty solid team, has solid pieces returning, and should be a really good early test for the Bulls. How does the new pitching stand up? Do the veteran returners start fast? Do the sophomores who came in last year with high expectations, get started off fast or not. Taking two games in the opening weekend would be a great start to the year.

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