A look into USF baseball’s talented starting rotation

Together, the three starting pitchers have recorded nine quality starts. ORACLE GRAPHIC/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

After what seemed like a rough season for South Florida baseball and its pitching staff, out came a consistent weekend rotation that has performed well in the last few series.

USF’s three-headed snake includes redshirt senior Ethan ‘Boogie’ Brown, redshirt junior Hunter Mink and sophomore Jack Cebert.

Redshirt junior Hunter Mink pitched four innings and logged five strikeouts against No. 13 Maryland. ORACLE PHOTO/CARLEIGH BENEDICT

Mink is currently leading the three in ERA, wins and starts, with a 4.14, six wins and eight games on the mound. He also has recorded 42 strikeouts, holds his opponents to a .207 average and is the only pitcher that has remained in the weekend slot the whole season. In 2022, he played a reliever role for the Bulls after his transfer from Florida with 22 appearances and 43 strikeouts in 41 innings pitched. 

Earlier in the season, Mink said he was unsure about staying in the starting role after starting on opening night against No. 13 Maryland (Feb. 17). 

“I was excited to get the ball on opening day but I was just trying to get out there,” Mink said. “We’ll see. It’s gonna be probably a weekly thing, trying new guys.”

Now, he has proven to be the most reliable arm so far for the Bulls. The righty’s best performances on the mound were against FAU (Feb. 24), VCU (March 25), UCF (April 1), and Tulane (April 7). In the combined four starts, he put up 21 strikeouts in 24.1 innings pitched. 

Before the start of the 2023 campaign, Mink was named to the top ten list of draft prospects in the American Athletic Conference by Baseball America. Although he does not pop up on their current top 2023 college MLB draft prospects list, he might start getting some eyes from organizations if he continues his upward trend. 

Redshirt senior Ethan Brown will be playing his last year of college baseball with USF. ORACLE PHOTO/CARLEIGH BENEDICT

Also coming out of his relieving shell is Brown, who began the 2023 season with five relief appearances before popping up in the starting role conversation. He and Mink have changed between Friday and Saturday roles so far.

Brown leads the rotation in WHIP, innings pitched and strikeouts with a 1.20, 41.2 frames and 57 punches. The JUCO product joined the bullpen last season from Seminole State and played a consistent starting role during conference play.

He has already surpassed his strikeouts from 2022, where he threw 45 strikeouts and is likely to pass his innings pitched against Houston this weekend. His best outing in 2023 was on the road at UCF (March 31), where he pitched a career-high 7.1 innings with 12 strikeouts.

In the southpaw’s last outing, he showed grit despite starting the game off on the wrong foot. In 6.1 innings thrown, he started off the first three frames with five earned runs but kept Tulane scoreless in the remainder of his outing.

Bulls coach Billy Mohl said his production was one to not overlook.

“The fact he started off so slow, but saved our bullpen by getting into the seventh inning and allowing [junior pitcher] Riley [Skeen] and [freshman pitcher] Chandler Dorsey and all those guys to be fresh for today. So I gave him huge props. That was probably the story of the weekend, was him being able to go as deep as he could,” Mohl said.

‘Boogie’ has yet to pop up in any draft conversation in his last year as a collegiate pitcher, but is eligible for the draft and could get picked up either in the draft or signed after the fact.

Sophomore Jack Cebert has grown from young rookie Bull to experienced pitcher in less than two seasons. ORACLE PHOTO/CARLEIGH BENEDICT

Holding down the Sunday role is Cebert, who has been a starter in the works since his freshman debut in 2022. Last year, he logged 21 appearances and five starts in 39.1 innings pitched with 35 strikeouts.

This year he has shown major strides from his first year, starting seven games in eight appearances, giving him the second most starts on the team behind Mink. In 36 innings of work, he holds 35 strikeouts and a 4.50 ERA.

Cebert pitched a career-high of seven frames against Long Beach State (March 12) and Tulane (April 8) and marked a career-best of eight strikeouts in his outing against Army (March 19).

Following his last start against the Green Wave on Sunday, Mohl said he and the other starting arms have been helping carry the USF bullpen after what was a rough start for the Bulls early on.

“It was big from all three starters. Got us, six, seven innings, so the bullpens fresh, they kind of need that. As you know, it’s been a little bit of a long season so far, so to get those guys fresh again will be huge,” Mohl said.

South Florida baseball’s trio has only done better in conference play, with Mink holding an ERA of 0.73, Brown with a 3.29 and Cebert with a 3.27.

If this group stays consistent throughout the remainder of conference play, the Bulls will have a fighting chance when competing in the AAC tournament beginning May 23 in Clearwater.