USF relying on “small ball”

University of South Florida baseball coach Lelo Prado is well aware that his team can’t win with only home runs.

“We have to play small ball,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of power.  We’ll hit some home runs, but in order for us to be a great team we have to have that approach.”

While the Bulls have only two home runs this season, seven players are hitting over .300 and the team holds a .331 batting average.

Senior catcher Trey Manz and junior left fielder Chris Rey hit USF’s first home runs during Friday and Sunday’s games, but Rey has been hitting with contact as well. Rey holds a .350 batting average and leads this team with 12 RBI.

“Hitting-wise, it’s all small ball,” said USF freshman shortstop Sam Mende. “We can’t rely on the big shot. It’ll come occasionally, but you can’t try to do that. We just have to go out and do what our coaches grind in our head every day.”

Mende has taken that approach for a long time.

“Growing up, I had two ex-pro coaches who pounded in my head all the small things,” Mende said. “I’ve never been the home run hitter, so it was appealing to me to hear stuff like that, because that’s what it takes to win ball games.”

Prado said when a team plays “small ball,” it’s important to get the top of the order on base.

Senior leadoff man Mike Consolmagno has scored nine runs and is 7-for-7 on stolen-base attempts. Sophomore Jonathan Koscso, who hits behind Consolmagno, is second on the team with a .400 batting average.

“Koscso and Consolmagno are huge keys,” he said.  “That way I can leave Lockwood in the third spot and Stephen Hunt and those guys in the middle of the order where they drive in some runs.”

Koscso and Consolmagno have combined for 23 hits in 60 at bats and 10 steals.

“If those guys keep getting on base, watch out,” Prado said. “Mike’s one of the fastest guys I’ve ever coached. It’s taken awhile to get him to buy in to the whole bunting for hits, getting hit with the ball type thing, things to get on base.”