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Saturday, January 22, 2022


Cougars will need ace pitching to take down high-scoring Bulls


USF’s pitching will not allow Houston to score many runs, so junior Trey Cumbie will need to play his best against the high-scoring USF Bulls. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

The Houston Cougars have not had a great start to the season, but they have a chance to turn things around when they go against the USF Bulls on Friday.

In conference, USF and Houston are tied for first with 4-2 records, but overall, USF has a better record of 20-9, while Houston has a record of 17-11.

Houston is recovering from a trio of low-scoring games against Cincinnati, while USF defeated Tulane in a high-scoring series. In contrast to Houston’s strong pitching but weak offense, USF has been a very balanced team this season.

Juniors David Villar and Joe Genord are USF’s best hitters and have a combination of 11 home runs this season, which is more than the entire Houston roster.

Villar has the third-highest batting average in the conference and leads the team in hits, while Genord has the highest slugging percentage in the conference and the second-most runs batted in on the team.

Villar and Genord both usually hit in the third and fourth positions, and their hitting has generated about half of USF’s runs this season.

Despite that, USF has seven different hitters batting over .300 so far this season. Even when Villar or Genord are having their off days, the rest of the team can carry the weight.

The Bulls’ pitching is very similar to the Cougars’ with a duo of solid starters and a shaky third man.

Sophomore Shane McClanahan starts off the pitching rotation and has been incredibly consistent in his seven starts for the Bulls. McClanahan has given up zero runs in five of seven starts and has a 1.55 ERA.

McClanahan’s stats reflect his skills, but the next man in the USF rotation had his stats betrayed by a disastrous game against North Carolina.

If you remove that game from senior Peter Strzelecki’s ERA, which is overall 3.38, it plummets to 1.50.¬†Strzelecki has allowed only one home run this season, and he averages more than seven strikeouts per game.

McClanahan and Strzelecki are great opposing pitchers for juniors Trey Cumbie, 2.28 ERA, and junior Aaron Fletcher, 1.22 ERA. The first two games of the series could turn out to be low-scoring pitching duels.

One advantage for Houston: Neither McClanahan nor Strzelecki has thrown a complete game this season, and USF’s bullpen is not as strong as its starters.

Both teams have had previous trouble with their third starter in the rotation, so the third game could be low-scoring or a shootout.

The first game of the series starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Darryl & Lori Schroeder Park with tickets priced at $5 and up.

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