Tampa Bay Sports Day

USF: A Closer Look at the Bulls in Gainesville CWS Regional

TAMPA – The University of South Florida baseball team will make its second NCAA Tournament appearance in three years when it competes in the Gainesville Regional from June 2-5.

The double-elimination regional at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium will begin Friday at 1 p.m., when the No. 2 seed Bulls (41-17, 14-10 The American) take on the No. 3 seed Bethune-Cookman (33-23, 15-8 MEAC) on the WatchESPN app.

The No. 3 overall seed Florida (42-16, 21-9 SEC) will take on the No. 4 seed in the regional Marist (32-21, 16-8 MAAC) in the second game Friday at 7 p.m.

The regional will be played through Sunday, with a final game slated for Monday night (if necessary). The regional winner will meet the winner of the Winston-Salem Regional in a Super Regional series the following weekend. Wake Forest is the top seed in the Winston-Salem bracket, along with second-seeded West Virginia, third-seeded Maryland and fourth-seeded UMBC.

The eight Super Regional winners advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Oregon State, North Carolina, Florida, LSU, Texas Tech, TCU, Louisville and Stanford were the eight national seeds.

All USF regional contests can be heard on AM-1040. Session passes for the regional go on sale at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday and single-game tickets go on sale beginning Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. To reserve your seat for the Gainesville regional, please click here.

The Road to Gainesville

USF

Making their 12th NCAA Regional appearance, the Bulls finished the regular season and conference tournament with a 41-17 record and reached 40 wins in the regular season for the first time since 1996. USF was ranked for three-straight weeks inside the top 25 of both the Baseball America and D1Baseball polls, along with other publications such as USA Today. USF finished with the best winning percentage in The American.

The Bulls enjoyed their second-longest win streak in program history with 19 consecutive victories spanning from Feb. 19 – March 22. USF placed five players on All-American Athletic Conference teams. Junior shortstop Kevin Merrell (Odessa, Fla.) and senior DH Luke Borders (Winter Haven, Fla.) made the first team. Senior righty Phoenix Sanders (Gainesville, Fla.), redshirt-junior righty Peter Strzelecki (Lake Worth, Fla.) and junior outfielder Duke Stunkel Jr. (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) made the second team. It was the most all-conference members for USF since 2009.

Merrell enters postseason play with a .386 batting average to lead the conference and sit 17th nationally. Borders is in the midst of his best season to date. The senior is hitting .338 with 44 runs scored and a team-leading 53 RBI. He has 12 doubles, three triples and seven homers.

Stunkel Jr. sits third on the team with a .335 average and a team-high 16 doubles. Sanders and Strzelecki are part of a USF pitching staff that has led the nation in strikeouts per nine innings for 10 straight weeks (currently 10.3 per nine innings). Sanders ranks second on the team with 102 strikeouts and a 3.00 ERA. Strzelecki leads the team with a 2.42 ERA.

Bethune-Cookman

USF’s opening opponent is making its 16th NCAA Regional appearance after winning the MEAC for the second straight season. The Wildcats finished the year with six straight wins and went 3-0 in the MEAC tournament.

The Bulls and Wildcats did not meet during the regular season for the first time since 2014, but are no strangers to one another. USF holds a 58-16 in the all-time series against Bethune-Cookman that began in 1970. Friday will mark the first postseason meeting between the two schools.

Florida

Making a 33rd NCAA Regional appearance and 10th consecutive trip, the No. 4 Gators earned a national seed for the eighth time in the last 10 seasons. Florida won its first two games of the SEC Tournament before falling to Arkansas in the semifinals.

The Bulls and Gators have met three times in regional action, most recently in 2015 and 1996. USF won the first meeting in 1980, 8-0, but has dropped the last two regional games. The Bulls defeated the Gators back on May 9, 15-10, in Gainesville, their first win against UF on the road since 2012.

Marist

The Red Foxes are making their first trip to an NCAA Regional since 2009 and the seventh in program history. Marist won its sixth MAAC Championship over the weekend as the No. 2 seed. The Red Foxes defeated an SEC constituent earlier in the year with a 9-8 win against Mississippi State on Feb. 27.

The Bulls and Red Foxes have not yet faced one another in either the regular season or postseason.