Rob Bridenstine

Bats come alive to propel USF past Harvard

USF pushed their winning streak to 15 games with their win over Harvard on Friday night. Senior Phoenix Sanders pitched a gem and some long balls gave the Bulls enough to win.

The Bulls kept their momentum going as Harvard came to town Friday night. Fantastic pitching accompanied by consistent offense helped USF out with a 8-2 victory over the Crimson.

Senior Phoenix Sanders got the start for USF and had yet another phenomenal performance. Sanders, who moved to 3-0 on the season, went seven innings giving up only one run and recording 11 strikeouts. Coach Mark Kingston said how thrilled he is to have Sanders in his rotation.

“He’s outstanding,” Kinston said. “He’s not scared, he loves to compete and he’ll throw any pitch at any time.”

Sanders stayed consistent with his fastball velocity and command all night. His velocity fluctuated between 87 and 90 mph all night, and Sanders was placing it with accuracy. Sanders threw his fastest pitch of the evening in his final inning of work.

 Sanders said he attributes that to all the offseason work he did.       

“We took a lot of time off and hit the weights really big,” Sanders said. “Just have to trust your mechanics and trust the guys behind you and keep working.”

Sanders also got run support early in the game. In the second inning, right fielder Duke Stunkel lined a double down the left field line. On the very next pitch third baseman David Villar hit a homerun to deep right center, giving USF the 2-0 lead.

After adding another run in the third, centerfielder Garrett Zech hit a single which led to a towering homerun from DH Luke Borders that landed on top of the batting facility in right field.

USF would add three more in the 8th from a shot by left fielder Chris Chatfield that landed in the same area as Borders’. 

Sophmore second baseman, Coco Montes, had a career high four hits in the game. Montes says he sees the offense being more consistent recently.

“I think the whole team is clicking right now,” Montes said. “Hopefully it keeps clicking as we go into conference soon.” 

Kingston said the top of his lineup with sophomore shortstop Kevin Merrell and Montes are huge factors in the success of the team so far this season.

“You got to love those two,” Kingston said. “They are elite defensively in the middle and they’re elite offensively at the top of our lineup. So they’re a big key to our team, there’s no doubt about it.”

The win over Harvard brought the current winning streak to 15 games, second highest in program history. The players said they have never been a part of a team this successful in a long time.

“When I was about 12 we had a pretty dominant team,” Sanders said. “I think one to nine we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

Montes said this kind of team success is foreign to him.

“No, I actually haven’t been apart of 15 straight wins [before],” Montes said. “It’s pretty crazy… It’s pretty great.”

Although the streak is a big deal, Sanders insists even though it’s cool, it’s not the teams main focus.

“We’ve been really loose…we don’t even think about the streak, we’re just playing baseball,” Sanders said. “The day we lose, I think we’ll just keep our chins high and keep moving forward.”

The Bulls want to make sure that day is far in the future. USF goes for the series victory over Harvard tomorrow in double header. Game one starts at 2 p.m. at the USF Baseball Stadium.

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