Pirates begin playoff push in Florida
With a chance to get in position for a Big East Tournament berth, the baseball team goes on the road to face the University of South Florida Bulls.
Currently placed in ninth in the standings with a 14-22-1 overall record and 4-11 conference record, the Pirates are one game behind the Cincinnati Bearcats for the eighth and final qualifying spot. USF is in a tie for fourth place in the Big East with a 10-5 conference record and a 19-22 overall record.
The Hall enters the series against the Bulls having lost five of their last Big East games but won their last conference game against the No. 11 Louisville Cardinals.
“[The team] knows that it could take one game,” head coach Rob Sheppard said. “One game could turn the tides, beating No. 11 at their home field (Louisville) will give you a lot of confidence. One game can get the ball going, and you want to have momentum.”
In the series against Louisville, the Pirates gave up 13 runs in the three games against the Cardinals-something they will have to continue against a USF team which gives up an average of 5.5 runs a game.
The Bulls come into the series winning two of three games against Villanova last weekend, but come into the series losers of their last three with the other two defeats to Florida Gulf Coast 10-9, and Miami 14-7.
“South Florida is a very good team,” Sheppard said. “Their three weekend starters are very strong, they’re going to be very close games, and both teams have strong pitching.”
The Bulls’ starting rotation is led by junior Andrew Barbosa with a 5-2 record in 10 starts and an ERA of 2.55. The other two starters for USF both have ERA’s under 3.50.
“It’s whoever can put it together offensively, they should walk away with a couple of victories,” Sheppard said.
However, the offense of the Hall has been far from explosive especially in conference play where they average 3.4 runs a game.
USF comes in averaging 5.9 runs a game behind the bat of junior Stephen Hunt who leads the team in most offensive categories with a .321 batting average, 35 RBIs and 39 runs scored.
The Pirates play Bulls for the first time since 2008 when they went 1-2 at Red McEwen Field on the campus of USF winning the last game 3-2.
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