In two starts this season Phoenix Sanders has been scored on 10 times, with nine of those runs coming as the result of his defense’s errors.
Friday night, Sanders did his best to take matters into his own hands, striking out 12 batters over seven innings on his way to an 8-4 USF win over Eastern Michigan at the USF Baseball Stadium.
“I thought (Sanders) maintained his composure really well,” USF coach Mark Kingston said. “When he needed to get the big strikeout, he got the big strikeout. That’s what you need out of your Friday night guy and he’s doing a really good job for us so far.”
Two first-inning USF errors helped Eastern Michigan jump out to a 1-0 lead, but Sanders responded by limiting the Eagles to two hits over the next five innings.
USF (3-2) was held in check on offense for the first three innings, but broke through in the fourth and sixth innings to give Sanders a 7-1 lead.
Senior catcher Levi Borders led the charge with a 3-for-4 night including two runs scored and two RBIs.
“We need production from the youth and production from the vets,” Kingston said. “I’ll take eight runs every Friday night all year long. That’s something we can be happy about.”
After Sanders ran into some trouble in the seventh, giving up three runs, Kingston brought in pitcher Michael Clarkson, who promptly loaded the bases without retiring a single batter.
Leading 8-4 and in a jam, Kingston opted to bring in junior closer Tommy Eveld for the two-inning save opportunity.
Eveld struck out three consecutive batters to escape the jam, with his fastball reaching as high as 91 mph.
“I thought our starting pitching was very good and I thought Tommy was outstanding at the end,” Kingston said. “But we have other pitchers past those guys who are going to get opportunities and they need to take advantage of that.
“Guys are getting opportunities, maybe bigger opportunities than we originally anticipated. So when they get them they have to take advantage of them.”
USF will host Eastern Michigan in Game 2 of the three-game series Saturday at 6:30 p.m.