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February 12, 2013

Around the Horn: Middle Infield

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Every baseball you speak with will say that in order for a team to be competitive, they must be strong defensively up the middle of the diamond. Good thing for USF, they return four strong defenders to the middle infield positions for the 2013 season.

What was once a position of weakness for USF, may be the Bulls strength this season. Unlike last season, the Bulls return a strong, defensive shortstop and have two good defensive options at second base. As tradition holds, scoring runs may be a challenge for the Bulls, making middle infield defense and important strength to have.

This season, the Bulls return Kyle Teaf at shortstop. The sophomore made a splash with the Bulls in 2012, impressing fans with his range and solid glove. Teaf will be backed up by redshirt freshman Nik Alfonso, a local product from Tampa Catholic High School. Alonso is another defensive option with a strong arm and high baseball IQ.

Second base will look much different than it did in 2012 for the Bulls. Luis Llerena is gone after graduation and Kyle Copak will remain the back up. Sophomore Zac Gilcrease, who, if Bulls fans remember, had his redshirt pulled last year after an injury to Daniel Rockhold, will move from third base to second. Gilcrease impressed with his glove in 2012, showing, quick feet, a strong arm and nifty glove skills. Moving Gilcrease to second base gives USF head coach Lelo Prado a mobile and sure-handed double play partner for Kyle Teaf up the middle.

Let's take a look at the guys the Bulls will have in the middle infield this year:

Kyle Teaf- 5-foot-9 170lbs Sophomore Trinity Catholic High School (Tallahassee, Fla.)

Bats: Left

Throws: Right

Teaf started last season as the backup to Chad Taylor at shortstop. Shortly after the season began, Taylor struggled defensively, prompting Lelo Prado to move Taylor back to centerfield and throw the freshman into the fire; starting him at short. The Tallahassee native pleasantly surprised everyone, batting .251 with a homerun and a .335 on-base percentage. The freshman showed some growing pains defensively, committing 17 errors and posting a .934 fielding percentage, but Teaf improved as the season progressed.

During the summer, Teaf took the opportunity to play in the Florida Collegiate Summer League. As a member of the FCSL's Leesburg Lightning, Teaf finished second in the league in batting, hitting .354 in 35 games with 25 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.

Zac Gilcrease- 6-foot-2 175lbs Sophomore Cambridge Christian High School (Tampa, Fla.)

Bats: Switch

Throws: Right

It was a surprise that Gilcrease saw playing time last season. The freshman was redshirted to start the year, but had it pulled after an early injury to starting third Daniel Rockhold. Defensively, Gilcrease impressed, committing just three errors in 61 chances at third base. A switch hitter with good speed, Gilcrease gives Prado and the Bulls some versatility in the lineup. The local product profiles a strong glove and his mobility allows the transition from third to second base, freeing up a spot for Levi Borders. Expect Gilcrease to be a producer in the Bulls lineup this season in either the top or bottom (2nd, or 7-9th would be my guess).

Kyle Copak- 5-foot-10 170lbs Senior Transfer: Hillsborough Community College (Tampa, Fla.)

Bats: Right

Throws: Left

Copak served as a role player for the Bulls last season. The Chicago native appeared in 24 games, making nine starts and went 6-38 at the plate. Copak started the season as a contender for the starting position at second base, but fell off as the year and Luis Llerena progressed. The Hillsborough Community College transfer will need to display a better ability to make contact at the plate this year; Copak struck out 13 times in 38 at-bats last season. This season, expect for Copak to be in the mix to get the occasional start in the infield while serving as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement late in games.

Nik Alfonso - 5-foot-9 180lbs Redshirt Freshman Tampa Catholic High School (Tampa, Fla.)

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

Alfonso redshirted for the Bulls last season. This year, the redshirt freshman will be the primary backup to Kyle Teaf at the shortstop position. In the limited amount I've seen him, Alfonso profiles good range and solid arm. The local product batted .380 with 15 RBI his senior year at Tampa Catholic while turning in the highest GPA on the baseball team. This season, expect for Alfonso to push for a bigger role, but right now he is sitting behind two solid players in Gilcrease and Teaf in the middle infield. Defensively, Alfonso is progressing and may be just as talented as the other two, but it could be his bat that determines how much the Tampa Catholic talent plays this year.

Nick Gryniewicz is the Managing Editor of Runningthebulls.com - he also serves as the student voice of the USF Bulls Football, Men's basketball and Baseball home games. You can reach him at nick@runningthebulls.com. Follow Nick on Twitter at @nickgryniewicz.



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