USF looks for conference sweep against Seton Hall

Still searching for its first sweep in Big East play, the USF baseball team will go on the road this weekend for a three-game set against Seton Hall in New Jersey.

The Bulls (15-17, 5-4) have won both of their Big East series 2-1 since opening conference play with a series loss to West Virginia. USF has since beaten Villanova on the road and Rutgers at home last weekend.

“We want to win every series, but eventually you want to sweep some,” coach Lelo Prado said.

For the Bulls to sweep Seton Hall (14-15, 4-5) this weekend, the reshuffled pitching rotation will have to continue to improve. Two of USF’s current weekend starters – Kyle Eastham and Matt Reed – did not begin the season in the weekend rotation.

After getting shelled for six runs by Florida Gulf Coast on March 22, Eastham responded with a strong performance against Villanova and picked up his third win of the season. Eastham faced the minimum three batters in five of the seven innings he pitched against the Wildcats on April 2.

Eastham’s up-and-down season continued Saturday, when Rutgers posted four runs in the first inning of his start. By the time he left the game, USF already trailed 7-0 in a game it would go on to lose 11-6.

Soft-throwing Reed, a lefty who frequently throws his breaking balls in the upper 50 MPH range and relies on pitch placement, has gone 1-0 in his last two starts, pitching 11.1 innings and allowing four runs. Reed is 2-2 this year with a 3.69 ERA.

Randy Fontanez has continued to excel in his fourth year as a starter, going 1-0 in his last two starts with just one earned run allowed in 16 innings pitched. Despite striking out 10 batters, he did not receive a decision in his last start because the game went 13 innings.

Seton Hall will combat Fontanez with an ace of its own in Joe DiRocco. The senior right-hander is 4-0 and one of only two Big East starting pitchers that are still undefeated, along with Louisville’s Louis Amlung.

USF catcher Daniel Rockhold will travel with the team to New Jersey after having a cast removed from his arm this week. Rockhold suffered a broken bone after being hit with a pitch in his first at-bat March 4 against Florida A&M. He stayed in for his next at-bat but then left the game and has not played since.

Since then, Andrew Longley has been forced to play 24 consecutive games at the catcher position without a break.

First pitch at Owen T. Carroll Field in South Orange, N.J., is set for 6 p.m. Friday. Saturday’s game is scheduled for 1 p.m., before a noon start Sunday.