Penn (0-2) at USF (4-9)
When: Tonight, 7
Where: Red McEwen Field
Projected starters: RHP Yuri Higgins (0-2) vs. TBA
The story: The good news is the baseball team is playing the fourth game of a 15-game home stand. The bad news is the Bulls are 2-6 at home this season.
USF’s record at home is just one of the problems coach Eddie Cardieri is trying to solve before tonight’s game against the University of Pennsylvania Quakers.
“We’re trying to land on a lineup,” Cardieri said. “There’s a lot of positions with questions marks right now. Guys aren’t performing as well as they can.”
As a team, the Bulls are ninth in the 12-team Big East in batting average (.242), 11th in slugging percentage (.301) and tied for eighth in on-base percentage (.326). The only category the Bulls lead the conference in is errors, with 29.
Cardieri said his team is doing everything it can to turn the offense around.
“We do a lot of things in practice in terms of drills, (we) try some different guys,” Cardieri said. “That’s all you can do.”
Though the offense is struggling, Cardieri said his pitching staff has performed well by keeping the Bulls in games.
But with Blake Tillett out, Cardieri is considering starting junior pitcher Yuri Higgins against Pennsylvania. A start tonight would be the first of the season for Higgins, who has a 4.09 ERA in 11 innings of work. In USF’s 7-6 loss to Illinois on Sunday, Higgins made his team-leading eighth appearance of the year, giving up four hits and three runs in two-thirds innings. If Higgins can’t go, junior lefthander Nick Manganaro will get the start.
Between tonight’s pitchers, USF’s lack of offense and the Bulls’ 4-9 start, Cardieri has a lot of problems to fix, and no clear solution in sight.
“I wish I could predict the future,” Cardieri said. “I’d like to have everything settled by conference.”
Keep an eye on: Kris Howell. The senior leftfielder leads the team in batting average (.333) and is third in the Big East in hits with 18. In the Bulls’ last game, Howell went 0-for-5 and scored one of the Bulls’ six runs. If the Bulls want to stop their four-game losing streak, they will need Howell and the rest of the offense to step up.