After dropping its first series of AAC play against Cincinnati, USF baseball (12-11, 1-2) will look to improve its consistency at the plate and on the mound as it heads into a home weekend series against No. 14 ECU (18-6, 3-0).
The top two hitters for USF are Kyle Phillips, batting .330, and Joe Genord, batting .320. Phillips was the offensive silver-lining in the series against Cincinnati and went 4-for-13 with three RBIs. Genord was less effective at the plate and went 1-for-9 with one RBI.
USF coach Billy Mohl is looking for more consistency in hitting for the team as a whole and wants the players to make more contact with the ball.
“[ECU] plays a good game of baseball, so we just have to come out, can’t make mental mistakes and our guys have to show up and get the bats going a little bit,” Mohl said.
USF’s pitching will also look to improve after the weekend series loss against Cincinnati.
Pitching started off strong for the Bulls in game one last weekend with junior Collin Sullivan recording a career-high 11 strikeouts, however, pitching stuttered throughout the rest of the weekend as the Bulls gave up 20 hits in the final two games of the series.
“Sullivan and Alec Wisely have gone out every weekend giving us six or seven innings each time and obviously Nelson [Alvarez] has been good for us out of the pen,” Mohl said. “We just need some other guys to step up and show a little more consistency.”
The Pirates are on a six-game win streak and currently lead the AAC standings thanks to their sweep against UCF last weekend in which the Pirates scored 26 runs in the series. Junior first baseman Spencer Brickhouse went 6-for-12, hitting two home runs with eight RBIs in the series and was named AAC player of the week.
ECU, who is the conference favorite, could prove to be a difficult test for USF, given the Pirates’ dominant start to conference play.
“We just have to play great baseball, got to stay the course and stay positive,” Mohl said.
ECU boasts some of the best hitters in the AAC, with top-ranked in individual conference statistics sophomore outfielder Alec Burleson hitting .402 with 10 doubles. Brickhouse ranks third in individual statistics with a batting average of .397 and has five home runs this season.
USF won the series 2-1 against ECU last season and Genord hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 2. His bat-flip celebration caused a conflict with the ECU dugout in a bench-clearing affair.
Genord’s bat flip sparked conversation of a brewing rivalry between the Bulls and the Pirates, however, Mohl played down the speculation.
“It was an intense game that day,” Mohl said. “We’ve always played good games with those guys, but it’s just another game for us.”
USF will begin its second series of AAC play against ECU at the USF Baseball Stadium on Friday at 7:00 p.m.