Baseball travels to Jacksonville with momentum

The Bulls are near the top of the Big East standings but will step away from conference play for the next couple of days.

USF has used a team effort to win five straight games and 12 of its last 15, building its momentum as the Bulls head into today’s game at Jacksonville University  at 6:30 p.m.

“It starts with just everyone in the dugout, everyone staying up and pulling for each other,” said senior catcher Trey Manz, who hit a game-tying two-run home run in the ninth inning Sunday against Pittsburgh. “It’s something that’s really coming together, people finally starting to feel what it’s like to play as a team.  It translates to wins on the field.”

USF (19-10, 7-2) is second in the Big East after a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh this past weekend. The Bulls are 5-6 on the road this year.

Junior Teddy Kaufman is expected to start today for the Bulls.  Kaufman is 1-2 with a
5.33 ERA this year, but has 23 strikeouts in 25 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .227 average.

Freshman Matt Reed was expected to start against the Dolphins Wednesday, but the game was canceled because of traveling obligations.

The Bulls continued their hot hitting over the weekend, scoring 31 runs in three games. USF is hitting .325 as a team this year, and  ranks third in the Big East.

“We’re getting key base hits, too,” coach Lelo Prado said. “When we’re getting runners in scoring position, guys are starting to swing the bat.”

USF’s pitching has a 4.24 team ERA, which is second in the conference, and the Bulls’ pitchers have walked only 78 batters this year, which is the best in the conference. Sophomore third baseman Jonathan Koscso, who hit a walk-off home run to beat the Panthers on Sunday, said he’s been impressed by the team unity.

“The biggest thing is that we’re playing as a complete team right now,” he said. “Pitching has been great all year. The hitting’s been great. Every inning of every game, guys are pulling for each other and wanting each other to succeed.”

Sophomore outfielder Ryan Lockwood, who reached base in all three games against Pittsburgh, has helped the Bulls by reaching base in 72 consecutive games. He’s reached base safely in all but two games of his USF career.

The Bulls and Dolphins last met during the 2006-07 season, when the USF swept a
three-game series.