Surging Bulls ready for Hatters

Unlike Stetson, which has four batters over .300, the Bulls’ only slugger over .300 is junior Levi Borders. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Since USF beat Stetson in Tampa two weeks ago, the teams have gone in completely different directions. They appear opposite, with USF on the preferred end of the spectrum. 

The Bulls (20-8-1) are riding a five-game winning streak, while the Hatters (14-15) have dropped their past four. 

Moreover, the teams’ most recent games nearly had inverse outcomes. On Sunday, USF crushed Cincinnati 15-4, and Stetson suffered a 15-5 blowout to Creighton. 

The Hatters have cooled down while the Bulls have heated up.

First baseman Buddy Putnam has had the hottest bat for the Bulls. The senior made program history Monday when he earned a national player of the week honor. Collegiate Baseball named him the Louisville Slugger Player of the Week after he batted .438 with four homers — including a walk-off grand slam — and 10 RBIs. 

“Buddy’s giving us great at-bats, but great at-bats with power,” coach Mark Kingston said. “He’s always been a singles hitter. This year, he’s adding power to his game … we’ve always talked about the easiest way to score runs in college baseball is with speed or with power, so with him to be a power threat right now is really important.”

Putnam leads the Bulls with six home runs. Catcher Levi Borders and center fielder Austin Lueck are tied for second with four. 

Borders has shown consistency as the only Bull batting over .300. The junior is hitting .320 with a team-high eight doubles.

Four Hatters are batting over .300. Outfielders Vance Vizcaino and Cory Reid, catcher Garrett Russini and third baseman Josh Powers are hitting .330, .322, .311 and .304, respectively.

Even with such a potent lineup, Stetson has had difficulty winning because its starters have been inefficient, which has exhausted the bullpen. In their past four games, the starters combined to allow 17 earned runs — two of those starters lasted two innings or fewer. 

In three of those four games, a four-run inning hampered the Hatters before the fifth inning. 

Looking at the Bulls’ previous five games, their starters have combined to allow only 11 earned runs. Ace Jimmy Herget was also named to the AAC Honor Roll after tossing six shutout innings Friday.

For two teams that have been fairly opposite, USF will see who comes up on the winning end tonight in DeLand at 6:30.