TAMPA — The University of South Florida Bulls jumped out to 4-0 lead in the first two innings of the rubber game of the weekend series with the Iowa Hawkeyes and used four pitchers on a combined shutout, 6-0, and series win at USF Baseball Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Peter Strzelecki went the first five innings allowing just one hit and striking out six. He walked three. Joe Cavallaro came on two throw two scoreless innings of his own, followed by and inning each from Mark Savarese and Andrew Perez.
Offensively USF was led by Luke Borders with three RBI, Coco Montes who hit his first home run of 2017 and Chris Chatfield and Anthony Gonnella who each had an RBI, but the story of the day and the weekend was pitching for USF and perhaps offered a glimpse of what Bulls fans can expect this season.
The Bulls used four pitchers this weekend that missed all or part of the 2016 season. Combined the USF pitching staff struck out 39 in the three game set. They walked just 11 and allowed eight earned runs.
Those kind of numbers will keep your team in most games.
Keep in mine USF Head Coach Mark Kingston and USF Pitching Coach Billy Mohl have their starters on pitch counts early in the year.
A big factor this weekend was the ability to execute the pitches that were called. Yes a few pitches were left up and the Hawkeye hitters made them pay for it, but for the most part, USF pitchers were in command all weekend.
Maybe the most important factor was the ability of USF coaches to use pitchers like they wanted to rather than using pitchers the way they were forced to. Injuries can wreak havoc on even the best plans of college baseball coaches.
Friday night starter Phoenix Sanders, a senior, looks every bit the part of the veteran on the staff. He works fast, competes on every pitch and seems to dial up big pitches when needed with runners on base.
Shane McClanahan has an elite skill set and he will only get better. He struck out nine in four innings in a rain delayed game on Saturday.
Strzelecki threw 80 pitches today and never looked uncomfortable on any of them after a year off with an injury. It was his first game in D1 baseball.
Joe Cavallaro, a converted starter, looks like he has embraced his role as a set-up man for the Bulls and along with Michael Farley and Andrew Perez the back end of games seems in good hands.
It early, really early and as Coach Kingston said earlier this weekend, “no one is going to throw us any parades just yet” but we are headed in the right direction.