Judging by the numbers, one could guess the USF baseball team has been eating some of Popeye’s spinach.
Or more likely, it could be the new flat-seamed balls the NCAA introduced prior to the season that have caused a 39 percent spike in home runs across the board, according to the NCAA’s midseason report.
With 15 games left on the schedule, the Bulls have already hit over triple the amount of home runs compared to all of last season. The added power has helped take the Bulls from a fifth-place finish in the AAC in 2014 to the top in the conference.
“The ball definitely jumps off the bat,” senior shortstop Kyle Teaf said. “It flies off the bat better than the high-seam balls. The biggest thing is the offensive numbers. Our home runs are up 500 percent or something stupid.”
Despite the improved offense and added pop, USF struggled to score a single run in its only meeting with Bethune-Cookman (15-29) this season.
The Bulls scored their only run in the 1-0 victory on an errant throw that should have resulted in an inning-ending double play.
Since the two teams’ matchup March 11, they’ve trended in opposite directions. Thanks in part to their improved offense, USF sits atop the AAC standings and has lost only two series since.
USF (26-14-1) is on pace to hit 38 home runs by season’s end, but coach Mark Kingston said there’s more to the Bulls’ newfound power.
“I think the new balls have helped, but I also think the guys are a year stronger and have really worked on driving the ball in the past year,” Kingston said. “So I think when you factor that all together, that’s why you see the improved power output.”
With more than triple the amount of fly balls hit over the fence rather than falling harmlessly into outfielders’ gloves, the Bulls’ offense is up nearly a full run per game, from 4.6 to 5.4.
With the Bulls’ offense on the upswing, the Wildcats are playing them at an unfortunate time. They have lost seven of their last 10 games and have struggled to hold opposing teams from scoring, while allowing eight runs or more in four of the past six games.
The Bulls, who have lost only four games at home, will look to do more damage this time around when they host the Wildcats at 6:30 tonight at the USF Baseball Stadium.