Coming off an emotional comeback win at FSU on Tuesday, and facing a team that was outscored 23-2 in their season opening series at Arkansas, there was great potential for a letdown game as the USF Bulls faced the Miami (OH) Redhawks in the first of four games Friday night. Starting pitcher Phoenix Sanders wouldn’t allow that, throwing seven shutout innings and pacing the Bulls to a 5-1 win.
“He’s a vet. He knows how to pitch and he doesn’t help the other team,” head coach Mark Kingston said.
SS Kevin Merrell got things going for the Bulls in the home half of the first with a leadoff triple to left-center field. 2B Coco Montes singled him home, continuing his good start to the season. Montes came into Friday’s game with a team-high .357 batting average and a home run.
“He’s a little bigger, a little stronger, he’s a little smarter [compared to last year],” Kingston said. “His swing has improved, it’s gotten more rhythm to it he’s a guy that progressing as a player.”
An RBI single by CF Garrett Zech in the second inning made it 2-0, but the third inning got interesting for Sanders.
SS Carlos Texidor, who went 0-10 with seven strikeouts vs the Razorbacks last weekend, singled and advanced on a passed ball by C Tyler Dietrich. Texidor advanced to third on an error by CF Dallas Hall, which put runners on second and third with no outs. Sanders struck out 3B Adam Yacek and intentionally walked 1B Ross Haffey to load the bases. Then he buckled down to punch out RF Landon Stephens on strikes and got C Hayden Senger to fly out to right field to end the threat.
Sanders cruised through the rest of his evening. He allowed just five hits in his seven innings of work, walking three and striking out 10. Sanders’ K count through two starts already stands at 18.
“Fastball command was actually pretty good. Then the curveball toward the end was kinda the putout pitch, which was great,” Sanders said.
Haffey hit a HR off freshman RHP Carson Ragsdale to give the Redhawks their lone run of the game. Reliever RHP Joe Cavallaro came on for Ragsdale after he four-pitch walked the next batter and shut Miami down, striking out five in his two innings pitched.
The Bulls and Redhawks play a doubleheader Saturday starting at 2 p.m. LHP Shane McClanahan gets the call for USF in Game 1, while freshman D.J. Roberts makes his first start in Game 2.