After struggling at the end of the regular season and getting swept by UConn last weekend, USF baseball coach Mark Kingston told reporters last Saturday that the Bulls would get "creative" with the pitching staff at the American Athletic Conference tournament. The first wrinkle was throwing typical Saturday starter Brandon Lawson in the tournament opener against East Carolina yesterday. Although he finished with a no decision, Lawson rewarded Kingston's confidence in him by tossing seven great innings and striking out eight.
"I felt like they had a lot of confidence in me and I needed to step up for my team," Lawson said. "I just went out there and showed them what I could do."
The next wrinkle came in the eighth inning, when Sunday starter Joe Cavallero was used as a setup man to bridge the game to closer Tommy Eveld. Except then it wasn't Eveld who entered in the ninth. Instead, Phoenix Sanders, staff ace for most of the season, came on to pick up the save.
When we heard the "creative" remark on Tuesday, Collin and I both assumed Lawson starting over Sanders was the big move. Not even close. Tommy Eveld will be the starting pitcher Thursday vs. UConn, his first start of the year and only the third of his collegiate career.
"I expect him to compete," Kingston said. "I expect him to bring his A game. He can't wait to pitch. [UConn] is a great opponent and I know he can't wait to get the ball. I think he'll take to a new role the same way those other guys did today."
Connecticut, who has now won 10 straight games, will start left-hander Tim Cate will get the start. Cate faced USF last Friday and went 6 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and no walks and striking out eight. The Bulls will need to show the patience they had in the ninth inning Wednesday to have a shot at beating the Huskies.
Tonight's game is at 7 p.m. at Bright House Field in Clearwater. USF will be the designated home team for the game. The winner gets a critical day off and a ticket to the semifinals on Saturday, while the loser faces the winner of Thursday's East Carolina-Memphis game in an elimination matchup at 3 p.m. on Friday.