Phoenix Sanders was able to total 10 strikeouts to only two walks over the course of his seven inning masterpiece Friday night.
The lengthy outing Sanders was able to provide on the mound is even more important than usual, preserving bullpen arms with a doubleheader looming on Saturday.
“That was big,” said Sanders. “If I could at least get us six, maybe seven we would be able to save a couple arms.”
Sanders was able to keep velocity on his fastball without giving up pinpoint accuracy for the entirety of his outing; allowing him to keep the Redhawk batters off balance at the plate.
“Fastball command was pretty good,” said Sanders. “Then the curveball was the put out pitch there in the end.”
The Bulls were also able to get their offense going fast with a leadoff triple in the bottom of the first from shortstop Kevin Merrell. Second baseman Coco Montes was able to bring Merrell home with a RBI single. With a 1-0 lead only two batters into the game, USF never looked back.
Head coach Mark Kingston praised Merrell for being the catalyst to their fast start.
“He set the tone from the first pitch,” said Kingston. “He’s our sparkplug, he scores and gets our offense going.”
Merrell also provided some electricity on defense. The shortstop was able to make a diving play in the hole with a man in scoring position. Although Merrell was unable to get an out on the play, he was able to prevent the runner from advancing.
“That won’t really show up in the box score because the guy still got a base hit,” said Kingston. “But his diving play in the hole saved a run and they did not score that inning.”
Sanders praised the defense behind him for keeping Miami (OH) off the board for the majority of the game.
“That play he made saved a run, momentum could have shifted their way,” said Sanders. “[David] Villar had good range, everybody just played great today.”
The RedHawks are still searching for their first win of the 2017 season, and with three games on the horizon, the Bulls don’t intend to look past their opponent the rest of the weekend.
“We’ll be focused,” said Kingston. “They’re playing good baseball teams, but we’ll come out ready to go there’s no doubt about it. “
Kingston will have plenty of players to turn to out of the bullpen for the next three games. Thanks to Sanders going 7 innings tonight, they were only forced to use two other pitchers out of the bullpen.
“We got 27 innings left, that’s a lot of baseball,” said Sanders. “We got enough arms and a lot of options.”
The Bulls are back in action Saturday and Sunday. The first game of their Saturday double header starts at 2 p.m.