Getting swept at Florida last weekend wasn’t expected, but USF coach Lelo Prado said he anticipated going through a season with some ups and downs.
USF will be looking for its first win of the season when it faces No. 13 Ohio State on Friday in St. Petersburg at 4 p.m. in the opening game of the Big East/Big Ten Challenge.
“We’re not happy that we’re 0-3, but I feel really good about the guys we (have) in the dugout,” Prado said. “This team’s going to be very good once everything clicks together. We’ve got the right group of guys.”
USF (0-3) will send junior Randy Fontanez to the mound Friday. Fontanez, the Big East Preseason Pitcher of the Year, struggled in his first start, giving up six earned runs in 6 2/3 innings in a season-opening 6-2 loss against the Gators. But Prado said he’s not too worried about his ace.
“Randy will be Randy,” he said. “He’ll give us a good opportunity to win the game.”
It’s the offense, Prado said, that’s still trying to find an identity.
“We’re still trying to find our lineup,” Prado said. “I feel good that I have options that I haven’t had since I’ve been here.”
One way to jumpstart an offense is to get the leadoff man on base, which develops confidence, said junior outfielder Junior Carlin. The Bulls scored just nine runs last weekend at Florida.
“It’s contagious. If we get the leadoff hitter on, hopefully, we can build some momentum,” he said.
USF hitters, however, will have their hands full against Ohio State’s Alex Wimmers, the Big Ten’s Pitcher of the Week. Wimmers struck out nine and held North Florida to one hit and no runs in six innings, allowing only two balls to leave the infield in his first start.
USF freshman Ray Delphey takes the mound Saturday, looking for another quality start when the Bulls face Illinois at Bright House Stadium in Clearwater at 7:30 p.m. Delphey impressed in his debut, giving up only two earned runs in five innings while striking out eight.
Junior Andrew Barbosa will start on Sunday against Michigan at 1 p.m. at the Naimoli Complex in St. Petersburg.
“Our defense has got to make plays behind our pitchers,” Prado said.
The Bulls lead the all-time series against Ohio State 4-3, though the Buckeyes swept the Big Ten/Big East Challenge last year, defeating Connecticut, Cincinnati and Notre Dame.
“(Tuesday) we had one of the best practices we’ve had all year. They all know that we have high expectations,” Prado said.