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Road trip begins in DeLand

BASEBALL GAME TIMEUSF (15-18, 6-9) at Stetson (15-21, 6-12)When: Tonight, 7Where: Melching FieldTV/Radio: 1010 AM

The South Florida baseball team (15-18, 6-9) embarks on a seven-day, six-game road trip that starts today in DeLand with a game against the Stetson Hatters.

The Hatters have been struggling recently. They have lost five of their last six games and allowed 10 runs or more in three losses against Belmont last weekend.

Stetson – with a 15-21 overall record and a 6-12 mark in the Atlantic Sun Conference – hasn’t produced on offense as well. The Hatters have scored 15 runs in their past four games against Central Florida and Belmont – all losses – after having scored 16 against Bethune Cookman in a 16-4 win.

USF isn’t doing much better.

The Bulls have lost five of their last seven games and go into the road trip with a 4-7 road record.

“This is a big week for us, we need to catch fire and get on a winning streak,” coach Lelo Prado said. “We have only had one this season.”

Prado was referring to USF’s seven game winning streak during mid-March.

Prado stressed the need for the Bulls to build momentum from last Sunday’s 8-4 win over Louisville, since this is a key week for the Bulls’ aspirations to make the Big East tournament.

After last Friday’s game, second baseman Addison Maruszak said that USF “would need to be dominant the rest of the season” if it wanted to be in the Big East’s top eight when the season ended.

The Hatters – who are 11-7 at home – will be facing right-handed freshman pitcher Matt Stull, who is 2-1 for the season with a 3.97 ERA.

Stull pitched four innings in his last outing a week ago in Orlando against UCF, when he allowed a first-inning grand slam and six earned runs overall.

The USF bullpen has been struggling when it comes to holding leads, but it also has discovered freshman left-handers Stephen Hunt and Junior Carlin to be reliable set-up men. Hunt has a 2.61 ERA and has made 13 appearances this season, while Carlin has a 7.43 ERA in eight appearances, but pitched well in his last appearance against West Virginia.

Both Carlin and Hunt could be key components for the Bulls’ success in the upcoming road trip while closer Shawn Sanford and set-up man David Torcise slowly regain their confidence, which Sanford has admitted has been shaken during the past two weeks.

“We need Sanford, he has got to pitch for us. He is a key component of our team,” Prado said.