Bulls must win two games against No. 2 Texas to keep season going
From winning the AAC tournament to being champions of the Gainesville Regional, the USF baseball team has upset a number of teams on its historic run.
To keep that run going, the Bulls must complete quite possibly their toughest task of the season thus far, defeating No. 2 Texas in a best-of-three series in the opponent’s ballpark.
The Longhorns, as their No. 2 ranking shows, are a complete ballclub. They have four players hitting over .300 and multiple pitchers with ERAs sub-3.00.
Redshirt sophomore Ivan Melendez has appeared in 52 games for Texas this season and has a .330 batting average to go along with a team-high 12 home runs.
Along with Melendez, redshirt juniors Zach Zubia and Cam Williams have also put up impressive numbers throughout the season so far. Zubia has a .309 batting average while Williams has .308 himself. Both players have hit 10 home runs this season.
Another offensive player to keep an eye on is freshman Mitchell Daly who has made his presence felt in his first year with the Longhorns. The Alabama native has made 52 starts for Texas and has accumulated a .323 batting average and 31 RBIs.
Overall, the Longhorns have a team batting average of .282 and average 6.8 runs scored per game. To compare, the Bulls have a .264 batting average as a team and average 5.3 runs scored per game.
As far as pitching goes, Texas has multiple starters that have impressive numbers. Redshirt junior Tristan Stevens leads the team in innings pitched (97.1) and has a 2.77 ERA over 15 starts.
Redshirt sophomore Ty Madden has also made 15 starts and has a 2.59 ERA to show for it, the righty has also logged a team-high 110 strikeouts.
Redshirt freshman Pete Hansen, who has made 17 appearances and 13 starts, is second on the team in strikeouts (72) and has a 1.84 ERA.
Texas is not lacking in the bullpen either. Freshman Tanner Witt has a 2.64 ERA and has pitched 47.2 innings over 25 games, strictly coming in as a relief pitcher. Redshirt sophomore Cole Quintanilla has the second best ERA on the team (1.38) and has done so in 32.2 innings over 23 games. Much like Witt, Quintanilla has only made appearances out of the bullpen this season.
Additionally, freshman Aaron Nixon has 29.2 innings pitched out of the bullpen with a 2.43 ERA in 24 appearances.
Taking down Texas twice will be no easy task, but the Bulls have accomplished multiple difficult feats to get to this point, being one of the final 16 teams left in the NCAA tournament.
An interesting note heading into the best-of-three series is the familiarity the Bulls and their fans may have with Texas coach David Pierce.
Pierce coached Tulane in the AAC for two seasons prior to joining Texas. USF coach Billy Mohl and Pierce had a brief two-year overlap in the conference from 2015-16 when Pierce was the coach of the Green Wave and Mohl was USF’s assistant coach.
Also of note, the Bulls will travel to Austin, Texas, to participate in the Super Regional, about a three-hour drive from Mohl’s hometown of Houston.
“It’s where I grew up, I grew up in Houston,” Mohl said following his team’s win in the Gainesville Regional on Monday. “And you know, you’re a Longhorn and an Aggie when you grew up. Coach Pierce has done an outstanding job, he did an outstanding job when he was at Tulane and now he’s doing an unbelievable job at Texas.
“It’s going to be a great challenge, but we’re looking forward to it.”
USF and Texas will begin the best-of-three series June 12 at 9 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU and broadcast on 95.3/620 WDAE/iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.
For game times and television information for the rest of the series, click here.