Mired in a hitting slump, the last person the Bulls want to see is East Carolina’s Davey Penny. The reigning Conference USA Pitcher of the Week hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last 30 innings. Penny hasn’t surrendered an earned run in his previous four starts, dating back to UCF on Feb. 21.
“He’s good, but he’s no Nolan Ryan,” USF coach Eddie Cardieri said.
Penny fired a seven-strikeout, two-walk complete game March 28 against Cincinnati in his last outing, as the Pirates (19-10-1, 6-3 in C-USA) took two of three games from the Bearcats. This season, Penny is second in C-USA with a 1.49 ERA and has struck out 35 batters in 36 innings.
Whether the Pirate ace is on the mound or not, Cardieri said the Bulls are not going to change their approach.
“We’re practicing a bit of short game right now, but all we have to do is get a good pitch and put a good swing on it,” Cardieri said. “That’s baseball — you swing at the good ones and take the bad ones. (My) guys can hit as good as any college team in the country.”
Lately, the Bulls (19-10, 4-3 in C-USA) have been proving that they can hit again. In the past two games, USF has combined for 27 hits and 16 runs in victories against UCF and Louisville.
“We won on Sunday, (and) we won on Tuesday,” Cardieri said. “I hope we can just keep it going — stay on a roll.”
Even though the hitting is up and the Bulls have won two in a row, Cardieri said his team’s defense and hitting have not met the expectations he had for them before the season started.
“Our defense is not consistent enough,” Cardieri said. “And I know we can hit the way we did before we went to Miami (March 11 and 12) — I know we can do that. It’s a matter of playing the second half well.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Cardieri said the pitching has not only met his expectations but surpassed them.
“I think our pitching has come from an ERA close to 6.00 all the way down to in the 3.00s,” Cardieri said. “So I think they have done pretty well, but I expected that. I expected them to pitch at least that well, really.”
After a 1-2 series in Louisville this past weekend, the Bulls find themselves in sixth place in C-USA, a game back of the Pirates, who are in a three-way tie for third. Cardieri blamed the two losses to the Cardinals on a lack of spirit, something he does not want to see this weekend.
“(I want to see) intensity, enthusiasm, heart, whatever you want to call it,” Cardieri said. “We didn’t see that Friday and Saturday in Louisville, (but) we saw that Sunday.”