USF baseball is just past the midpoint of its regular season, a good time to evaluate each unit’s performance as the team approaches the thick of its conference schedule.
The Bulls (19-14, 1-5 AAC) sit in seventh place in the AAC standings early into conference play. The slow start against league opponents is a far cry from the team’s successful nonconference record of 18-9.
With 33 games played and 25 remaining, here is how USF has performed over the first half of the season.
Errors have been a problem for the Bulls so far this season and it’s come back to hurt them in more than a few games. USF has had nine games in which it committed at least three errors, including a season-high seven in a 10-4 loss to Bradley on March 12.
There are also four players with at least five errors, led by redshirt junior infielder Nick Gonzalez who has seven on his own.
The Bulls have racked up 52 errors over the course of 33 games, giving them a fielding percentage of .958, which ranks 242nd out of 293 teams in Division I.
Although the pitching staff has had to make some adjustments over the last few series to see who will fit into the puzzle of the starting rotation, one of the highlights of the group has been redshirt sophomore Orion Kerkering. The pitcher has excelled in a starting role after being last year’s closer. He currently holds a 2.93 ERA, good for second-best on the team.
The other two weekend starters, Brad Lord and Ethan Brown, are slowly easing into their spots. Brown has shown to be on an upward trend through conference play, only allowing one run and one walk in his last eight innings pitched. The team has also struggled with the absence of its ace Jack Jasiak who hasn’t pitched since March 26 against Niagara and has a 1.32 ERA.
Coach Billy Mohl has played around with the rotation in midweek matchups. He has used a total of 19 pitchers over the last two midweek games that gave up a combined 25 runs in the two losses.
The staff is currently averaging a 5.13 ERA and will need to get crafty against the conference’s strong batting averages. In the next month, USF will face teams that range from a .268 to .286 batting average.
Earlier in the season, the Bulls’ offense looked potent, with the lineup averaging over seven runs a game during their nonconference slate.
The batting order has faced a bit of trouble in the first two weeks of conference play with only 22 runs in its first two conference series against UCF and Tulane. Meanwhile, USF has surrendered 39 runs to its opponents.
Over the course of 33 games, the Bulls have scored 228 runs with a .266 batting average overall.
In their last game against FGCU on Tuesday, the Bulls left 12 on-base where they had the chance to tie or take the lead of the game. For USF to climb the conference standings, the team must improve on their situational hitting.
USF baseball has received contributions from all over its roster, but redshirt sophomore infielder Carmine Lane has been the best offensive weapon the Bulls have had all season.
In the batter’s box, Lane holds the highest batting average with a .338 to go along with a .992 OPS. He’s contributed 40 RBIs and has been known to come in clutch.
Lane has given the Bulls two walk-off wins in tight situations. In the final game of the Bradley series on March 13, he got his first walk-off of the season with a home run. In his second walk-off, he brought a Bull home with a single for USF to get the series win against Mercer on March 20.