Forget about last season.
The USF baseball team has forgotten, and the players aren’t about to reminisce when they’re off to a 9-1 start this season.That’s not all, though. They have a Friday night pitcher with an ERA less than 1.00, and the daily fan base has nearly quadrupled.
“It feels like I hit the lottery, you know?” said second baseman Dexter Butler, who is hitting a team-high .471.
Last season, USF was 4-6 after 10 games, including a three-game sweep by Jacksonville. This season, however, the Dolphins are one of the three teams the Bulls have already swept.
“So far, so good,” Butler said. “Can’t even remember what happened last season, because it’s a whole new start for everybody. That’s what a new season brings: a whole new start, and we’ve been taking advantage of this season already.”
USF took advantage Sunday as well, holding a 6-1 lead by the fifth inning and wrapping up a 13-1 win to finish a sweep of Manhattan College at Red McEwen Field.
The Jaspers (0-3) managed to score just one run over three games, while the Bulls had 21 and saw a complete game from senior pitcher Danny Otero on Friday.
Otero, who transferred from Duke this season, is 3-0 with a microscopic 0.41 ERA through 22 innings. Junior Daniel Thomas leads the team with 17 strikeouts and has a 2-0 record with a 1.12 ERA.
As for Sunday, junior pitcher Chris Delany got his second win in as many starts, allowed no earned runs through eight innings and struck out seven batters, including four of the first nine he faced. Junior Davis Billardello finished out the game.
“Our pitchers this weekend have been outstanding,” first-year coach Lelo Prado said.
The Bulls have had better offensive production from their lineup, as well. The team has five batters hitting above .400 with at least 28 plate appearances. Junior Walter Diaz leads the team with 18 hits, while first baseman Brandin Daniel has a team-high 17 RBI.
“We have all the same people from last year,” said centerfielder Joey Angelberger, who had a RBI and an outfield assist Sunday. “But the attitude is different. It’s what the coaches wanted to instill when they first got here.
“But (this start) is awesome. It’s great to finally be past (last season) and be part of a team that’s finally putting it together.”
USF has only put it together like this – a 9-1 start – three other times: 1974, 1982 and 1986.
“I’ll be honest with you: When our coaches talked, we wanted to be 9-1 going into the Florida game (at home Tuesday),” Prado said. “(A) 10-0 (record) would have been great, but 9-1 is great.
“We’re building a little confidence. The more we play, the more that happens, the more we have a chance to have a special team.”
Prado said playing Manhattan wasn’t a lazy Sunday afternoon. The Jaspers were a team that made the NCAA Tournament regionals in 2006 and went on to beat then-No. 1-seeded Nebraska.
“I’d be scared to play them late in the year,” Prado said. “But that’s how you build the program. If we want to be the best team in the state, we have to beat the Floridas and the Florida States and the Miamis.”
Angelberger, however, adds that last year is definitely something of the past.
“One of the first things the coaching staff talked about,” Angelberger said, “they made us put last year out of our minds and just let us get back to playing USF baseball.”Yeah, nobody can remember last year.”