Bulls rained out again, hope to play today

For the second time in two weeks, a USF baseball game in Jacksonville was canceled due to rain.

The Bulls (12-15, 3-3) were scheduled to open a two-game midweek series against Jacksonville (17-11, 7-5 Atlantic Sun) on Tuesday night, but weather intervened just as it had in canceling a game against North Florida on March 30. No makeup game has been announced, but today’s game is still scheduled to happen.

Assuming USF plays, freshman left-handed pitcher Nick Gonzalez will make his seventh start of the season.

Gonzalez is 2-2 on the year with a 5.40 ERA and 19 walks, more than double the next highest total on the team.

“The biggest thing with Nick Gonzalez is that he’s gotta grow up and be a college pitcher,” coach Lelo Prado said. “This isn’t high school. He’s just got to learn and mature and get better. (Pitching coach) Chuck (Hernandez) has been working with him, but this isn’t high school.

“You’ve gotta play nine innings, and you can’t just throw fastballs down the middle of the plate, but you do got to have command of your fastball. There’s times that he shows greatness, and there’s times that he shows that he’s not ready for college baseball.”

Gonzalez should benefit from a USF offense that has shown growth in recent weeks.

Entering the West Virginia series, which began March 25, the Mountaineers’ team batting average was higher than all of the Bulls’ individual batting averages, except for shortstop Sam Mende.

Mende’s .311 average still leads all Bulls who have recorded at least five at-bats, but the rest of the lineup is starting to catch up.

Senior outfielder/pitcher Junior Carlin has a seven-game hitting streak, though he hasn’t posted a multiple-hit game during the stretch.

Second baseman Peter Brotons, who began the season on an 0-for-18 skid, has tallied four RBIs while collecting five hits in his last 10 at-bats to raise his batting average to .192.

First baseman Todd Brazeal has produced seven RBI in his last 21 at-bats, while utility player Jimmy Falla has hit safely in 16 of his last 38 at-bats, including five multiple-hit games.

Prado points to a different mental approach his players are taking to explain the recent successes.

“(I attribute it to) hard work and putting more time into it and relaxing and playing the game the right way. Guys are getting better at-bats, and hopefully that will continue,” Prado said. “I think it should. They’ve been working hard, and as long as they keep working hard, we can live with the results.”

The first pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.