Coming off an emotional walk-off win on Sunday over Valparaiso and then going into Spring Break could have led the Bulls to relax Friday night. Senior RHP Phoenix Sanders wouldn’t have it, though. His strong performance and timely home runs helped USF beat Harvard 8-2 Friday night.
This is the start of a torturous stretch of games for the Bulls. They play six games in six days, including a doubleheader today.
“[We’ve got] a lot of innings this weekend and also going into next week, so we need our starters to have a bit of length for us and he did exactly that,” head coach Mark Kingston said.
Sanders cruised through seven innings, allowing just four hits, one run, and one walk while striking out 11. Sanders has back-to-back games with at least 10 K’s, and it’s his third game this year with 10 or more.
“I’ve got a little bit more confidence,” Sanders said. “I wouldn’t say last year I wasn’t as confident, but I got a year under my belt and I know what I can do different than I did last year.”
The offense continued to stay hot as they racked up 14 hits Friday, including three two-run homers from three different players. USF has at least 14 hits in five of the last six games.
3B David Villar got the scoring started in the second inning with a two-run blast to right-center field. CF Garrett Zech later singled in LF Chris Chatfield to make it 3-0 USF before the sun had even set.
In the third, DH Luke Borders hit a moonshot onto the roof of the batting facility in right field to make it 5-0 USF (pretty much the same time Kit hit the three to tie things up in the women’s basketball game, smh).
The Bulls scored three more runs in the eighth to put things away. Chatfield completely annihilated a pitch from Crimson reliever Garrett Rupp that went over the scoreboard in right field and became the second ball to hit the batting cage.
“Chat got that one over the scoreboard, that was really impressive. Then Luke, hits a lot of really hard line drives and he finally got under one and got into pretty well,” Sanders said.
2B Coco Montes has been a revelation at the top of the order for the Bulls. He had a career-high four hits Friday to raise his average up to .418.
“He’s been our biggest change on offense from last year,” Sanders said of Montes. “He’s hitting the absolute cover off the ball.”
Montes said experience is the biggest difference between his freshman and sophomore years. He said he played over 100 games between the college season and summer season and those reps are paying off in a big way.
The Bulls face the Crimson tomorrow for two games starting at 2 p.m. LHP Shane McClanahan (3-0, 1.33 ERA) gets the nod in game one and RHP Ryan Valdes (2-0, 3.60 ERA) will start game two.
- SS Kevin Merrell went 2-for-4 with a stolen base. He is 12-for-12 in stolen base attempts in 2017 and tied former Bull Mike Macaluso (‘00-04) for tenth all-time in career steals with 49.
- LF Chris Chatfield had a career-high three hits.
- The Bulls have scores at least three runs in 18 different innings this year, including two Friday.
- Sanders has 48 K’s in 32 1⁄3 innings. What’s more impressive is that he has only given up seven walks.