Assessing the Bulls

Starting pitching

The Bulls’ starting rotation seemed like a guessing game for the coaching staff depending on whose arm could even go. Injury after injury seemed to plague the Bulls’ starting four … or three … or three plus one. The biggest hit seemed to come with the loss of Jason Bartz, who finished the season 1-3. Jon Uhl proved the strongest Bull in the win column, finishing 9-6, although he saw some time out of the rotation, as well. Ryan Gloger seemed to struggle within the game, falling behind and then not being able to pull himself out. Senior John Gorham was up and down throughout the season, finishing 5-9 with 95 strikeouts.

Cardieri’s thoughts: “A big part of the whole year was those guys getting hurt. With Bartz going down and Gloger not being Gloger, we didn’t have everything. I really think that if a guy gave us six or seven good innings, we were good to go. When we were good, we were really good. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what to expect night to night.”
Relief pitching

All in all, the bullpen did its job this season. When called upon, it didn’t regularly blow leads and only accounted for seven of the Bulls’ 29 losses. However, in the earned run department, there was nothing to get too excited about.

Cardieri’s thoughts: “We had Livingston, Strickland and (Steve) Palinkas, all who did great jobs. Palinkas did a fantastic job later on down the stretch. I think Strickland, who also lost some time due to a rotator cuff strain, really pitched well for us.”

The majority of the starts fell to Devin Ivany with 41, but nothing can be taken away from Allen Shirley’s 23 starts either. Catcher was a strong position for the Bulls offensively and pretty solid defensively. Ivany hit .322 on the season and had 10 home runs, while Shirley hit .295. Shirley did miss some time due to a broken finger but returned strong.

Cardieri’s thoughts: “We told you all year long we had two strong guys behind the plate. We knew Devin was talented, and when Allen broke his hand, Ivany became the No. 1 guy. But we were really pleased with both of those guys.”
First Base

A little disappointing on the offensive side of the ball. Ronnie Handley made the most starts with 29 but was followed closely by Kris Courier with 22. Chris Cuccia added 13 starts but spent most of his time in the designated-hitter slot. Handley provided a spark at the plate with a .323 average. Courier struggled at the plate, batting .176 before an injury to his wrist ended his season.

Cardieri’s thoughts: “First base and right field were two spots where we didn’t get the necessary production. (The coaches) got confused that nobody jumped out there for the position. Courier had great numbers last season but just didn’t jump out, and he didn’t do it. Ronnie did very well with his chances and ended up being the guy. Then Cuccia got strong at the end of the season and just filled that roll for us.”
Second Base

Mike Macaluso moved across the bag from shortstop to second base this season and looked fairly strong defensively. Macaluso led the team in stolen bases with 26 and hit .295 with 11 doubles.

Cardieri’s thoughts: “Mac’s a good player. He’s a very good fielder with an above average arm. I think he had a really good year.”
Third Base

Perhaps the Bulls’ strongest addition offensively, Jeff Baisley also produced on the defensive side of the ball. Although he was charged with 11 errors in 115 attempts, the freshman started all but two games at third.

Cardieri’s thoughts: “I just can’t say enough about Jeff. (He’s) a hell of a player. His only two games not making the start at third were in the Conference USA tournament (due to a strained Achilles), and he still made the All-Conference tournament team.”

Myron Leslie moved from third to shortstop and took with him a lot of pressure to live up to his freshman season of 2001. He did so fairly well. The position sometimes seemed trying for him at points, as he finished the season with a .914 fielding percentage, but he seemed to become more and more comfortable as the season went on. And there was no question about his offensive play, as Leslie finished the season with a .310 average, seven home runs and a team-leading 19 doubles.

Cardieri’s thoughts: “Myron makes plays that a lot of shortstops won’t get to, but he has to minimize the errors next year. But because he reaches the balls that others don’t, he’ll become a strong shortstop.”
Left Field

Mike Cunningham was solid in the role of leadoff batter with a .315 average and 11 doubles, but it was his range on the field that was particularly impressive.

Cardieri’s thoughts: “Mike had a sensational year. He won some games for us. Once he got out of the funk he started the year with, he was solid.”
Center Field

The only player to make all 64 starts at his position was senior Mike Barclay, who closed out his USF career solidly with 10 home runs, a .336 average and a team-leading seven triples. This is a ball player who will be hard for the coaching staff to replace.

Cardieri’s thoughts: “He’s another one that had a great year. I’m very proud of him. He played great defense, and I’m just glad for Mike and the way he went out as a senior.”
Right Field

This was a very disappointing spot for the 2002 Bulls. A position that was basically there for senior Bill Nahorodny, but it slipped away when he couldn’t produce at the plate. Then it was kind of a “who can we put out there today” decision for the coaches. Bryan Hierlmeier ended up taking the reins just because of his bat, but defensively, the Bulls had issues with right field.

Cardieri’s thoughts: “It was Nahorodny’s position to lose, but he couldn’t get going. Rachlin did OK offensively, but didn’t play very good defense for a right fielder. Then we gave Hierlmeier a shot, and we felt like we could live with his defense.”