Bulls searching for new offensive punch in 2014


USF will begin its 2014 campaign this weekend in a three-game series against Maryland Eastern Shore, and the Bulls will be looking for new offensive production.

Big bats such as James Ramsay and Jimmy Falla, who combined for more than a quarter of the hits last season, no longer grace the USF roster. Both players signed with major league clubs, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, respectively, and played their first professional season in Single-A affiliates.

“The question mark with our team is going to be scoring runs,” USF coach Lelo Prado said. “We’re good enough to score them. It’s just a matter of going out there and doing it.”

The Bulls weren’t a homerun-hitting team last season, only knocking 17 out of the park — 13 of which came from players who aren’t on the roster this year.

With that production gone, small ball will likely be key for the Bulls as they look to move runners along the base paths.

Junior shortstop Kyle Teaf has shown an ability to get on base regularly, as he reached base 34 consecutive games last season and finished third in the Big East in runs scored (57).

Prado said Teaf, who will be transitioning into an increased leadership role, will lead off for USF.

“I try to lead by example,” Teaf said. “Everyone can talk the talk, but it’s about walking the walk and doing the little things right to make the younger guys find out how to do it.”

Prado didn’t confirm a batting lineup, but said redshirt sophomore second baseman Nik Alfonso and brothers Levi (sophomore catcher/third baseman) and Luke Borders (freshman outfielder/infielder) are also expected to start.

Though the lineup may not be set yet, Prado said he will send 2013 Freshman All-American pitcher Jimmy Herget to the mound for the season opener against the Hawks. The Big East Rookie of the Year finished with a 1.72 ERA, a .95 WHIP (No. 22 in the nation) and a shutout against Pittsburgh.

After his dazzling debut, Herget spent six months away from pitching to give his arm a rest before his 2014 sophomore season. Herget said he worked out six times a week to become bigger, faster and stronger while away from the diamond.

Herget said he utilized his slider, four-seam and two-seam fastballs to get strikes last season. Since returning to the mound for practice in early November, he has added a changeup to his arsenal

of pitches.

New to the pitching staff is junior Casey Mulholland, who Prado said has “every tool to be a great college guy.” The State College of Florida transfer finished 3-0 with a sub-three ERA last season.

Senior pitcher Lawrence Pardo led the Bulls in relief, finishing 5-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 43.2 innings pitched, but may also spend some time at first base or the designated hitter spot. The lefty expressed feelings of excitement and fear when it came to the upcoming season.

“It’s scary this is my last year,” Pardo said. “I’ve got to give it all I got and try to help out the young guys here that have never experienced it.”

Prado is confident young players such as freshman infielder Vincent Miniet, freshman pitcher/outfielder Daniel Portales and sophomore pitcher Tommy Peterson, who was out last season with an injury, are going to make an

early impact.

An early contribution from those players could aid the aforementioned upperclassmen in getting off to a better start than they did last season.

The Bulls started 2013 with a 14-14 record, leaving

Prado dissatisfied.

“Every time we lose a game, we’re running at 6 in the morning,” Prado said he recalled telling the team.

Tough love seemed to be the remedy. The Bulls won

12 consecutive games thereafter until Florida State snapped their streak April 23. After the hiccup, USF went on to win another five in a row.

USF finished fourth in the Big East with a 36-22 mark behind Louisville, Pittsburgh and Seton Hall. The Bulls proved to be a better squad at home with a 25-5 record, compared to 9-13 on the road.

“It’s always good to play in front of your home crowd,” Herget said. “We just have extra momentum here to win opening weekend.”

The Bulls will play 22 of their first 25 games at home.

“With this home schedule, we got to come out right on top,” Alfonso said. “We know we have to come out on fire.”

The Bulls have shown they can leave in walk-off style, as they won eight of 11 extra-innings games last season, but Alfonso said he wants a

flashy entrance.

Prado said he hopes a strong start would carry through to the end of the season, though.12