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NCAA Baseball Tournament Gainesville Regional Preview: #2 USF vs. #3 Bethune-Cookman

USF is in the NCAAs for the second time in three years, but they are limping into Gainesville to face the Wildcats.

USF

USF baseball (41-17) takes on the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (33-23) in game one of the Gainesville regional today at 1 p.m.

Last ten games: USF 3-7; B-CU 8-2

Conference Tournament Results: USF 1-2 (debacle); B-CU 3-0 (MEAC Champs)

Probable pitchers: USF- RHP Phoenix Sanders (5-2, 3.00 ERA); B-CU- RHP Anthony Maldonado (8-3, 2.78)

The Bulls will need to forget what transpired in Clearwater last week to have any shot of advancing in the Gainesville Regional. They were outscored 15-0 in the last ten innings they played (three runs in the 9th vs ECU, 12 runs from C. in the next game)

Senior RHP Phoenix Sanders gets the start for USF, looking to turn in a solid outing in his hometown. He has struck out 102 batters over his 90 innings of work this year and has turned out two quality starts in his last three games heading into today.

Not to be outdone, B-CU freshman RHP Anthony Maldonado has turned in four consecutive quality starts, including one vs. Miami. The righty doesn’t strike many out (60 in 81 IP) but has the stuff to keep Bulls hitters at bay. He has hit 11 batters this year, which doesn’t even lead the team. That honor belongs to fellow starter Tyler Austin with 13.

Offensively, the Wildcats are paced by OF Adonis Lao and his .367 batting average, and he carries a 12-game hitting streak into today. First baseman Danny Rodriguez brings the power for them with his 11 homers, 17 doubles, and .585 slugging percentage. He is second the team in batting average at .343 and leads the team with 45 RBI.

USF stumbled to the finish line this year after winning 19 straight games and the lack of offense was the main culprit. 1B Joe Genord fell off a cliff after his two HR game in the 15-10 Bulls victory over UF in early May. He totaled just four hits in his next nine games, culminating with his implosion against East Carolina and subsequent benching the next day at the conference tournament. He needs to get going for the Bulls to have any shot of getting out of the region.

SS Kevin Merrell and his .386/.468/.569 triple slash is weeks away from paydirt in the MLB Draft and I don’t expect him to slow down any. He’ll need to stay hot too. If he has a bad weekend, then USF will be heading home very quickly.