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February 18, 2013

5 Things: USF Baseball Goes 1-2 In First Weekend

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It was an up-and-down first weekend of play for the USF baseball team in the Big East-Big Ten Challenge. The Bulls went 1-2 with losses to No. 19 Louisville and Indiana, the lone win coming against Purdue. Although it is still very early to make any decisions about the team, we did learn quite a bit over the weekend. Here are five things we learned about the Bulls this weekend.

  1. Pitching Is Not Going to Be the Same:

  2. As we discussed in our pitching preview that came out on Saturday, this is not the same pitching staff that Bulls fans have become accustomed to seeing. Gone are the days of power pitchers like Andrew Barbosa, Randy Fontanez and Derrick Stultz, this Bulls staff is not going to rack up the strikeouts. Over the weekend, the Bulls starters gave up nine earned runs in nine innings pitched and only Joey Lovecchio pitched past the fourth inning. The Bulls may need to have a more consistent offense this year if they want to be successful, there may be few 'shut down' games for the Bulls' pitching this year.

  3. The Bulls Can Hit:
  4. Despite the slow start against No. 19 Louisville, the Bulls offense came alive in the next two games of the Big East-Big Ten Challenge. USF had seven hits against the Cardinals, 20 against Purdue and 14 against Indiana. That's an average of 13.6 hits per game, plenty for any team to have enough opportunities to win games every day. The real question is whether or not the Bulls drive runners home once they are on base. Aside from USF's 20 run onslaught of Purdue, the Bulls left 20 runners on in two games against Louisville and Purdue.

  5. USF Has Some Depth in the Infield
  6. There were lots of questions about the Bulls infield depth going in to this season. On opening day, the Bulls started four underclassmen in the infield and there was a lot of chatter about who else we would see on the infield dirt. Over the three games, USF head coach Lelo Prado used Levi Borders, Kyle Copak, Kyle Teaf, Nik Alfonso, Zac Gilcrease, Chris Norton, Jimmy Falla, Jordan Strittmatter and Buddy Putnam. Overall, the Bulls looked good in the infield and redshirt freshman backup Nik Alfonso shined in his first regular playing time for USF. Alfonso batted 5-8 (.625) with 6 RBI's over the weekend, pinch hitting against Louisville and Indiana and starting at second base against Purdue.

  7. Chris Norton Looked Like a Different Player This Weekend
  8. USF senior catcher Chris Norton didn't see a lot of playing time in 2011, mainly because the backstop did not produce offensively. Last year, Norton had just one hit in 20 at-bats, finishing the year with a .050 batting average and one total base. Against Purdue, Norton surpassed his 2011 hit and RBI total, totaling four hits in five at-bats with two RIBs. The East Bay High School product finished the weekend strong, going 2-4 in the Bulls' 12-2 loss against Indiana on Sunday. Clearly Norton has come out with great energy this year, if he continues to hit, Lelo Prado will find a spot for him every day.

  9. USF is Not Set with a Sunday Starter Just Yet
  10. After the first weekend, it seems that Nick Gonzalez and Joey Lovecchio are set to be the Friday and Saturday starters for USF, but the Bulls' are still lacking a Sunday starter. Tallahassee Community College Transfer Nolan Thomas started for the Bulls on Sunday against Indiana and struggled, throwing 3.1 innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits. The Bulls do have some guys that are still in the mix for that Sunday spot. Freshman Jimmy Herget looked sharp in relief on Saturday in relief, throwing four scoreless innings and surrendering just one hit against Purdue. Another contender for the Sunday job, transfer Lawrence Pardo threw 3.2 scoreless innings against No. 19 Louisville. Sophomore Michael Clarkson, who did not pitch over the weekend, is another name that has been linked to the Sunday starter role.

  11. Chad Taylor is Going to be the 'Everything Guy'
  12. That's right, USF outfielder Chad Taylor is back and this year, you are going to see him do a lot more than just play centerfield. Over the weekend, Taylor played in all three of USF's games and played three different positions; centerfield, right field and relief pitcher. Taylor looked good in the outfield and at the plate, going 3-9 (.333) with three RBIs and three runs scored. The senior made his first appearance on the mound for USF on Sunday against Indiana and struggled, pitching 1.2 innings of relief and giving up four earned runs, three hits and walking three batters. Despite the rocky start, expect for Taylor to continue to get his opportunities on the mound, especially since the Bulls have no clear-cut guys in the back of the bullpen.

Next up, the Bulls travel to Tallahassee to play three games against the Florida State Seminoles February 22nd-24th. The game will be broadcasted on BullsCast and 1010AM CBS Radio with Alex Pearlman handling the play-by-play.

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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