Bulls work to sharpen defense before conference play against UConn


USF coach Lelo Prado is proud of how hard the Bulls (13-7) have worked this week to sharpen their defense, he said.

They’ll need it for conference play, which begins Friday at 7 p.m. against UConn (10-8).

USF is leading the AAC with 34 errors, compared to UConn’s 22. Rutgers is the benchmark for the conference, having only 14.

Not having a solid pitching rotation has been part of the problem for the Bulls, Prado said.

“We have (Brandon) Lawson and (Michael) Clarkson out, so you’ve got to pitch a lot of guys on different days, and it affects the defense. It affects everybody,” he said. “We’re going to get Lawson back this week, and I think guys will start settling in a little bit.”

The other part of the problem, he said, has been mishandling routine ground balls.

“It’s never been our problem before,” Prado said. “I know my shortstop (Kyle Teaf) is a lot better than what he’s played the last couple weeks. He’s a good player, and he works extremely hard. Sometimes, as a player, you get in a little funk, and as a team, you get in a little funk. I’d rather have it early (in the season) than later.”

Teaf has been able to leave his defensive faux pas on the field to produce at the plate. He leads the AAC with 11 errors, but also leads in on-base percentage, runs, and hits with .521, 21 and 29, respectively.

Teaf committed three errors and went 6-for-8 with five runs and three RBIs in last weekend’s series, where the Bulls took two of three from
Rhode Island.

Sophomore left-fielder Luke Maglich, another hot hitter for the Bulls, hit a walk-off single in Saturday’s 4-3 victory and went 4-for-6 with two triples, two runs and three RBIs in Sunday’s 16-13 loss.

The Huskies come into the series on a streak, winning their last six and outscoring their opponents 54-13 in those games. In their last outing, five pitchers held Central Connecticut State to one run, as the Huskies won 6-1 with a five-run 10th in Winter Haven on Wednesday.

“They’ve got a good pitching staff like they’ve always had, and they play solid,” Prado said. “We just have to play like we did early in the year — with a lot of intensity, a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of urgency.”

USF pitcher Jimmy Herget (2-3), who has a 1.48 ERA, allowing five earned runs over 30 1/3 innings, is scheduled to start Friday in the first of a three-game set.