USF baseball team on a roll entering West Coast Conference play

The USF baseball team is hoping a challenging nonconference schedule will toughen up the Dons for West Coast Conference play.

Led by preseason WCC Player of the Year candidate Bradley Zimmer, the Dons enter this weekend’s conference-opening three-game series against Gonzaga (3-13) on a four-game winning streak and feeling confident.

The big victories for USF (8-6) so far have been against Cal 1-0 and then-No. 2 Cal State Fullerton 6-5 in 19 innings. Both of those came on the road. The Friday-Sunday games against Gonzaga — considered a contender before the season — will all be at USF’s Benedetti Diamond.

Zimmer, a center field and probable first-round draft pick in the June draft, is hitting a robust .393 with three home runs and 13 RBIs — all team highs. Eight of his 24 hits have gone for extra bases, producing a .639 slugging percentage. Right fielder and cleanup hitter Derek Atkinson is second on the team with a .377 average and 11 RBIs. Zack Turner, who led the Dons with a .333 average and eight homers last year, is off to a bit of a slow start, hitting just .267 with no home runs so far.

Pitching has been a bit of a question mark for the Dons. Top starter senior right-hander Abe Bobb is 2-1 with a 4.00 ERA in 27 innings, while junior left-hander Christian Ceclilio is 2-2 with a 3.38 in 24 innings. The Dons have issued 42 walks in 131 innings en route to a team ERA of 4.26.

A good start to conference play will be essential. Two weeks after the Gonzaga series, USF faces WCC preseason favorite San Diego at Benedetti.

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