The USF baseball team will bear a distinct resemblance to the rest of the university in the future — full of Floridians. The Bulls signed a 10-member class on Monday, and, like the football team’s 2003 signings, not a one came from outside the state borders.
“It’s been our philosophy as long as I’ve been at USF to recruit Tampa Bay first, then expand to the rest of the state after that,” coach Eddie Cardieri said. “We only go outside if it’s for a real front-line player. We’ve always tried to do that, and we’ll continue to do it. There’s a lot of good players and a lot of competition for them.”
The Bulls lose only six seniors after this season, but adding their six juniors, who are draft-eligible, Cardieri has some concern. USF signed 14 players last year, but lost three to the Major League Baseball draft and had three members drafted off the team.
“Right now, it’s hard to predict,” Cardieri said. “Last year, we signed 14 and 11 showed up. Three signed professional contracts. So, you always have to build a little cushion. It’s hard to say (if any of this year’s 10 will be drafted). It’s about how well they do this spring. But if all 10 come, it will be as solid a class as we’ve ever had.”
USF’s biggest problem area comes from the infield. Next year’s Bulls will feature seniors Mike Macaluso, who sat out last year with a cracked rib, and Myron Leslie, who turned down the Phillies who drafted him in the 11th round. USF also has enticing draft prospects in third baseman Jeff Baisley and catcher Devin Ivany. To shore up those areas, Cardieri added Dexter Butler from Key West and Sarasota’s Ian Desmond for the middle infield.
“We definitely had to recruit shortstop and Ian Desmond’s good enough to play for anybody,” Cardieri said. “With Myron and Mac graduating and Baisley possibly signing, that could wipe out our infield. And Joey Angelberger (a freshman third baseman from Dunedin) is having Tommy John surgery, so he’s out for the year before the season starts. That leaves Nick (Cardieri) at second, so Butler and Desmond could step in as freshmen.”
Butler batted .425 for the Conchs as a junior and will join former teammate Patrick Freeman, a freshman pitcher for USF. Desmond was an offensive force for Sarasota, and ended the season 24-6 and ranked No. 4 in Class 6A.
The Bulls also bolstered their depth at catcher with Mitchell’s Josh Le’Roy, who played his first three seasons at Ridgewood, and first baseman Brandon Daniel, the younger brother of USF long snapper Justin Daniel from Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda.
“We got a little bit of everything and filled our needs perfectly,” Cardieri said. “And our pitching is very good on paper.”
Cardieri inked six arms, adding four right-handers and a pair of lefties. Local product Blake Tillet of Brandon and Davis Bilardello, a member of the Vero Beach team that was a semifinalist in 6A, make up the left-handers. Ryan Koch (Osceola), Ty Pryor (Orlando Olympia), Daniel Thomas (Gaither) and Cardinal Gibbons’ Ray Garcia, 4-4 with a 1.75 ERA, comprise the righties.
“In pitching, we want winners,” Cardieri said. “Obviously, they have to have good command and be able get two pitches over for strikes.”
And while he said the Bulls’ role in the Big East played a small role for this class, Cardieri foresaw it as being a big selling point for future classes.
“(The recruits) were as excited as anybody,” Cardieri said. “This is a big move for the university. For classes more in the future, this will be a bigger impetus. We’ll showcase the Big East and present all its positives.”