USF baseball ready for 2013 season

Players on the baseball team stormed the diamond to conduct fielding and batting drills in their first practice of the 2013 season on Friday.

The Bulls (38-22) finished fourth in the Big East in 2012, with 17 wins and 10 losses in conference play. They ground out some tough wins in the Big East Tournament to reach the championship game for the first time in history, but stumbled at the finish line against St. Johns University.

One of the Bulls notable Big East Championship victories came agains the Louisville Cardinals, the top-seeded team at the time. The Bulls will face Louisville, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the conference, in their first game of the season.

Louisville was an offensive juggernaut last season and led the conference with a .295 batting average, 632 hits and 427 runs score, while offense was USFs Achilles heel. Out of 12 teams, the Bulls finished last in the conference with a .255 batting average, eleventh in hits and ninth in runs scored.

Despite offensive woes, pitching gives the Bulls a chance to succeed.

Coach Lelo Prado said he looks to it as an element that can help them against the Cardinals.

USF will look to junior James Ramsay and senior Alex Mendez to man the outfield and provide the offensive spark in the lineup. Both players led the Bulls in hits and RBIs last season.

Hopefully well be able to pitch good enough against those guys, Prado said. Theyre good.

Prado has good reason to have confidence in his pitching staff.

Last year, it led the conference with a 3.53 ERA, .244 opponent batting average and 17 saves.

Prado added former Major League Pitcher Lance Carter to his coaching staff to ensure a
repeat pitching performance for the season. Carter played for the Rays and made the
American League All-Star team in 2003 and his experience will come in handy.

Pitching is arguably the most important component for success in baseball at any level. It earned Major League Baseballs San Francisco Giants team two World Series championships in the past three years, and it could help the Bulls reach the College World Series, Prado said.

Its our goal every year and weve got the talent to do it, but youve got to get 35 guys on the same page to do so. Prado said.

The Bulls square off in a conference game against Louisville at 4 p.m. at Bright House Field in Clearwater on Feb. 16.

If we play the way that were capable of playing, it will be a great early season matchup, Prado said.