South Florida coach Lelo Prado knows the Bulls will only go as far as their pitching rotation takes them.
“If we’re going to be great, we’ve got to be able to pitch,” Prado said. “We have enough guys.”
Prado said the Bulls have as many as 14 go-to pitchers for the season.
Anchoring the starting rotation are sophomores Randy Fontanez and Derrick Stultz. Both return with valuable starting experience from a year ago and bring their own style to the top of the rotation.
“They’re two different kinds of pitchers,” Prado said. “Randy’s a competitor — he’s always out there at 100 mph. Derrick’s more laid-back, but he’s got a great arm. Both are going to be effective. Derrick is more of a power guy, but both have gained a lot of experience pitching so much as freshmen.”
As freshmen, the duo combined for 111 strikeouts in 145 innings.
Junior Shawn Sanford, who also saw significant action last year, will have starting and relieving duties this season. The most experienced member of the starting rotation, Sanford went 5-5 while racking up 46 strikeouts and 11 saves last season.
“Shawn Sanford has made a 180-degree turn from last year,” Prado said. “He has a great attitude. With him it’s the mental part — he’s got the tools.”
Sophomore Matt Stull, who gives the Bulls yet another experienced arm, will round out the rotation.
“The No. 1 thing is appearances, and (Sanford and Stull) made a lot of appearances (last year),” said pitching coach Lazer Collazo. “We were a very young team last year, so a lot of guys got experience.”
Stull will most likely start during weekdays, and is expected to begin when the Bulls host the Netherlands National team Feb. 24.
Left-hander Teddy Kaufman, a junior from Miami, was a middle reliever turned mid-week starter in his first season with USF last year. After appearing in 13 games and making seven starts a year ago, Kaufman gives the Bulls more depth and experience at the back end of the rotation.
“We’re deep in the pitching staff,” Prado said. “If you’re going to be deep, that’s where you want to be deep at.”
USF opens the season this weekend at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge in Clearwater and St. Petersburg against Michigan, Purdue and Indiana.