Bulls brace for Knights, ‘Noles

South Florida baseball will take on Central Florida in the first round of the NCAA Regional Tournament Friday. The regional, which will be hosted in Tallahassee by Florida State, is a three-day double-elimination tournament where, along with Stetson, the teams will compete for the slot in the 16-team super regionals.

UCF is no stranger to USF with the Bulls having a 2-1 advantage against the Golden Knights in the regular season. However, in the last meeting, UCF handed the Bulls a 6-2 loss as Bo Hall pitched a complete game. The Bulls will once again see Hall in the Friday opener, which will start at 3 p.m.

The Bulls will match sophomore Jon Uhl against Hall. Uhl (9-4) has been solid in the month of May, earning wins in all of his last four starts. In his last two games, Uhl pitched 12 innings, allowing three hits and no runs.

Against UAB in the Bulls’ final regular season series, Uhl hurled five hitless innings as USF went on to a 16-2 win. At the time, Cardieri said he pulled Uhl to save his arm for an appearance in the Conference USA Tournament. His arm appeared fresh as he went seven innings in the tournament opener against Louisville. Uhl allowed no runs and three hits in the 10-0 routing of the Cardinals in the first round.

Stetson isn’t foreign to the Bulls either. The Hatters have a 3-2 advantage on the Bulls in the regular season. However, Florida State will be an unseen opponent for the Bulls. The Seminoles go into the tournament as the No. 1 seed for the first time in the school’s history.

In the second game Friday, Florida State will take on Stetson at 7 p.m. From there, the tournament breaks off into winner’s and loser’s brackets Saturday and finishes with the regional final Sunday.

Florida State Seminoles

The Seminoles had a strong season, finishing at the top of both the Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball polls with a record of 56-12. They won the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament last week in St. Petersburg, as well as sweeping then-No. 1-ranked Clemson in their final regular season series.

At the bat, senior Ryan Barthelemy and ACC Rookie of the Year Stephen Drew lead Florida State. Barthelemy is batting .379 with 17 home runs and 90 RBI, while Drew has a .383 average and 14 home runs in his freshman season.

As well-rounded as a team gets, the Seminoles’ pitching is equally as impressive. Junior Matt Lynch is 13-1 with a 3.08 ERA and 87 strikeouts, while sophomore Mark LaMacchia is right behind him with a 10-1 record, 67 strikeouts and a 3.29 ERA.

Central Florida Golden Knights

With a 40-20 record and the title of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, the Golden Knights are ranked No. 23 by Baseball America and No. 26 by Collegiate Baseball heading into their first game in the regionals against USF. A strong pitching staff, including Hall, who has a 9-0 record with 74 strikeouts, is carrying UCF. In relief, UCF has used the arm of Von Stetzback, who has picked up a 7-0 record despite making one start this season. Stetszback has a 1.41 ERA with 79 strikeouts.

At the plate and on the bases, UCF has had help from A-Sun tournament MVP Mike Myers, whose 23 stolen bases and 16 doubles leads the team. Myers is batting .322 with 54 RBI. Also making an impact on the Golden Knights lineup is Dee Brown, who is batting .403 with 12 doubles and 55 RBI.

Stetson Hatters

Stetson’s 54-15 record earned it the A-Sun Conference regular season championship. Stetson fell to Florida Atlantic in the semifinal of the conference tournament. The Hatters are the No. 4 seed in this weekend’s tournament and face FSU in the first round. Chris Westerveldt and Bryan Zenchyk are leading the Hatters’ batters. Westerveldt, the A-Sun Player of the Year, has a .392 average with 16 doubles and 16 home runs. Zenchyk has a .385 average with 11 home runs and 60 RBI.

Roger Lincoln is anchoring the pitching staff with a 12-3 record and 94 strikeouts in 88 1/3 innings.

Jarrett Guthrie covers baseball and can be reached at oracleguthrie@yahoo.com