USF junior righthander Phoenix Sanders dominated the UCF Knights with eight innings of two-hit, shutout baseball in the Bulls 4-0 series opening win on Friday night in Tampa.
"It's really easy when you've got a good defense behind you, just gotta get the ball down," said Sanders, who moved to 5-3 on the season and lowered his ERA to 3.15. "Usually I'm a rhythm guy, so once I get going in the first if I can get comfortable or in the zone, throw off-speed for strikes usually it'll go pretty well." Sanders' 12 strikeouts were also a career high.
Bulls sophomore second baseman Kevin Merrell returned from injury to his leadoff spot in the lineup, and was 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. Corner outfielders Duke Stunkel and Luke Maglich were each also 2-for-3 from the plate to give the Bulls starter all the offense he'd need. Tommy Eveld shut the door with a 1-2-3 ninth inning in a non-save situation.
The Bulls (20-22, 5-8) are back at it again tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. for the middle game of the series. Brandon Lawson (4-3, 2.15) will take the ball for USF, and he'll face UCF (21-23, 5-8) RHP Juan Pimentel (2-6, 4.03). It's also Bark With The Bulls, and fans are allowed to bring up to two dogs. The first 50 fans to the team store will also receive a USF leash.
#18 USF Softball needs only one win against the UCF Knights this weekend to wrap up the American Conference regular season crown, but couldn't get it on Friday after a seventh inning apocalypse gave the Knights a 9-0 win to open the three-game series.
Bulls ace Erica Nunn was locked in a dual shutout showdown when she took to the circle for the top of the seventh, but a comedy of errors saw a Lohan-like meltdown by USF (42-12,14-2). Nunn conceded a walk and then a two-run homer to Knights DH Jessica Ujvari to open the flood gates. After another walk Nunn was pulled, but relievers Susan Wysocki and Cheyenne Eggens combined to concede another six runs themselves, four of them earned.
In total C. Florida (32-17,9-2) had four hits, four walks, and a hit-by-pitch in the final frame to turn what was a pitchers duel into a laugher. UCF's Shelby Turnier went the route conceding just four hits in the clean sheet.
The Bulls will attempt once again to claim the conference championship at 4 p.m. tomorrow, with Sunday's regular season conference finale for USF at 5 p.m. on ESPNU.