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February 22, 2013

Preview: Bulls at #9 Seminoles

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EDITOR'S NOTE: THE GAME HAS BEEN DELAYED UNTIL SATURDAY AT 12 NOON. USF and FSU will play a double-header Saturday - weather permitting.

The schedule doesn't get any easier for the USF (1-2) when they head to Tallahassee to play a three game series with the No. 9 Florida State (4-0) starting Friday night.

The meeting will be the first between the two teams since the 2002 Tallahassee Regional, the last regular season meeting came in 1999. The last time the two teams played a series was 1989, when the Bulls took three of four from the Seminoles. Friday's game will be the 82nd overall matchup between the two schools; Florida State leads the overall series 65-16 and 42-4 in Tallahassee.

"They're going to be tough up there." Said USF head coach Lelo Prado of the No. 9 team in the country.

The Seminoles are coming off a 50-win campaign and a trip the College World Series in 2012. Florida State has yet to take a loss yet this year, sitting at 4-0 after a season opening series sweep of Rhode Island and a mid-week defeat of Jacksonville. The Seminoles' offense has been impressive, posting six or more runs in all four games this year. The Seminoles have a great deal of potential for power in the lineup, already having hit six home runs in the first four games.

"Florida State, you think about that as a kid." Redshirt freshman Nik Alfonso explained, "It's exciting to get a chance to go up there and get a chance to go up there and play those guys."

The Seminoles are led by sophomore third baseman Jose Brizuela. The Weston native has started off 4-12 (.333) at the plate with three extra-base hits, including a home run and a team leading seven RBIs. Catcher Stephen McGee has also started the season off on a tear, batting .365 (4-11) with 3 RBI and posting a .611 on base percentage through the first four games.

"If we're going to go to a regional somewhere its going to be at Florida, Florida State or Miami, so you gotta to learn how to play at those places." Said Prado, "It's a good experience for the young guy and some of the older guys."

The Bulls were led at the plate by a cast of unlikely characters in the first weekend. Senior Chris Norton and redshirt freshman Nik Alfonso had breakout weekends. Norton led the team, going 6-10 (.600) at the plate with three runs score and two RBIs. In his first regular playing time with USF, Alfonso batted .556 (5-9) with two runs scored and a team-leading six RBIs.

The starting rotation for Florida State will likely consist of LHP Brandon Leibrandt, RHP Scott Sitz and RHP Peter Miller. USF will counter with RHP Joey Lovecchio and LHP Nick Gonzalez on Friday and Saturday with Sunday's starter still to be determined.

Leibrant (1-0, 7.20 ERA) was roughed up in his first start, but got the win. The sophomore southpaw gave up four earned runs in five inning against Rhode Island last week in FSU's 11-5 win on opening day. Lovecchio (1-0, 0.00 ERA) pitched five scoreless innings, striking out five for the Bulls against Purdue in USF's only win of the weekend.

Sitz (0-0, 0.00 ERA) made arguably the best start for Florida State in it's first four games of the year. The Senior worked four scoreless innings, giving up just four hits, while striking out four in the Seminole's 6-2 win over Rhode Island on February 16th. Gonzalez (0-1, 40.50 ERA) was unable to get out of the first inning in his season opening start, allowing four runs in two-thirds of an inning against No. 19 Louisville.

Miller (0-0, 7.71 ERA) stumbled in his first start of the year, taking a no decision on February 17th against Rhode Island. The right hander was knocked out early against the Rams, facing just ten batters and giving up four runs over 2.1 innings. Sunday's starter is still to be determined by Prado and first year pitching coach Lance Carter. Last Sunday's starter, Nolan Thomas struggled in his first appearance with USF, allowing six runs, four earned in 3.2 innings against Indiana in the Big East-Big Ten Challenge. If Thomas does not make the start for the Bulls, some others that could fill the spot are freshman Justin Patrick (0-0, 9.82 ERA), junior Lawrence Pardo (0-0, 0.00 ERA), sophomore Mike Clarkson (if healthy) or freshman Jimmy Herget (0-0, 0.00 ERA).

After a rollercoaster weekend for the Bulls, Prado is just looking for some consistency. If the team can play on an even keel, the skipper knows they have a chance to win.

"Three solid games up there will give us a chance to win." Said Prado matter-of-factly.

After the weekend against the Seminoles, the Bulls will make a pit stop in Orlando to play rival UCF on Tuesday at 6:30 pm. USF returns home to open the season at the USF Baseball Stadium on Friday, March 1st against Toledo at 7:00 pm.



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