USF baseball still deciding its opening day lineup
Coach Billy Mohl and his fresh roster are underway in their preseason preparations as opening day approaches for NCAA DI baseball.
This season, 19 new faces present themselves and all will be competing for a starting spot in the lineup on Feb. 17 when USF takes on No. 13 Maryland.
One of Mohl’s biggest challenges at this time is the depth he is presented with. Both the infield and the outfield give the head coach a variety of options to play with.
With the options presented, competition will heat up before contests even begin, according to Mohl.
“The good thing about depth is it breeds competition. It could be a situation where somebody wins a job and gets it outright, but there’s always somebody on their heels,” Mohl said. “It could be a situation where not all of them are right-handed some of them are left-handed where we have a platoon situation against righty and lefty pitching.”
“It’s good to have depth. I think this is the most depth we’ve had position player-wise since I have been here.”
Some of the experienced new faces in the infield include redshirt junior Stanton Leuthner, junior John Montes and redshirt senior Travis Sankovich. All three have extensive college baseball experience and are part of the substantial talent of the diamond.
Not only does experience from transfers contribute to the team but the new freshman additions as well. Joining the infield is freshman Eric Snow and Matt Rose who both exceeded expectations in high school.
Snow set national records, putting 18 triples as a junior and 17 home runs as a senior, along with batting a .660 average as a senior. Rose recorded a .407 average in his senior season with 25 RBI and a .976 fielding percentage.
The infield isn’t the only area where decisions need to be made in the coming weeks. USF’s outfield also shows promise with an array of possible player combinations.
Five players present themselves as viable picks, including sophomores Jackson May and Marcus Brodil, junior Drew Brutcher and redshirt juniors Pablo Ruiz and Daniel Cantu.
Mohl said he has already decided to move Cantu to the infield to help lead the fresh group and decrease the number of lefties in the lineup.
“All of them [the outfielders] are left-handed hitters. We’ve moved Cantu over to first base. I don’t want to say permanently, but he’s pretty good,” Mohl said.
“He was an infielder in high school, and he’s really good around the bag. You got Marcus, Brutcher, Mayo, you got Pablo Ruiz from UCF. We have some young freshmen that you could see out in the outfield. Again, that’s the best part about this, there’s competition all over that field.”
One area that still is a gray spotfor the Bulls is their pitching. With a chunk of USF’s staff drafted or graduated in 2022, the young bullpen is now deciphering what its next move will be.
For Mohl, the only way to figure out what USF’s rotation will be is when the coaches put arms on the mound and find out what exactly they can do.
“We have a lot of guys. There ain’t a whole lot of starting pitching returning from last year. We have a lot of depth, we have a lot of guys with stuff. The first month of the season, we’re gonna do some different matchup-type things and see who can run away with those roles,” Mohl said.
“There’s so much inexperience on this staff with starting pitchers that somebody is going to have to earn that role.”
Currently helping lead the mound is redshirt junior Tanner Mink, who has contributed to the team since 2020.
Not only is he seasoned with his baseball knowledge but he has also grown into a whole new player, according to Mohl.
“He kind of started getting going late in the season, had a really good start against East Carolina late in the year. He was one of our best arms in the fall and into the spring,” Mohl said.
“He’s really made leaps and bounds from going from a two-way player to a pitcher only and you’re starting to see that decision starting to reward him on the pitching side.”
As the season nears and all the pieces come together for USF baseball, it is hard to tell who will be in the lineup on opening day, let alone the rest of the season. For South Florida, this isn’t necessarily a bad problem to have given the number of players and level of depth the team truly has.