Early Season Report – Answering 4 Questions About USF Baseball

Answers provided by:
Mark Giardino (@USFBaseballFans)
Matthew Giardino (@BasesOnBulls)
John Martin (@JohnnyKII)

*Note from Mark (@usfbaseballfans) with It’s Brewin at McEwen: I want to give a shout out to our new contributing writer, John Martin. He’s a USF Alum and currently works as a critical care nurse. He lives in Safety Harbor, FL with his wife and 3 dogs. He loves to watch and support USF Baseball and really impressed Matt and I with his knowledge of the team through our conversations on Twitter. When he expressed an interest in helping us with content, we felt that having him contribute to our blog would be a great way to start.

Summary of the article:
-Week 3’s Brewin Ballers of the Week
-What stands out after 3 weeks of play
-Players that have impressed
-Players that might break out soon
-Previewing Boston College

Welcome to the first in season blog post from It’s Brewin at McEwen. We’re going to try and make this a weekly if not bi-weekly thing. Make sure you subscribe to our email list below to make sure you don’t miss any of the content.

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For this article we want to share our Brewin Ballers of the Week and also answer 4 questions about the team.

First, the Brewin Ballers of the Week:

Hitter: Drew Brutcher (sophomore OF) – (Source)

In the past week, Drew has caught fire. There were 5 games last week and during that stretch, Drew went 9 for 20 (.450) with 3 home runs and 7 RBIs. The highlight was definitely hitting 2 home runs against Brown this past Sunday but he also hit safely in all 5 games, showing off some consistency.

Pitcher: Orion Kerkering (sophomore RHP) – (Source)

In the 1st of 5 games this past week, Orion made his first start of the season against FIU. In that game, he went 5.1 innings without allowing any runs and struck out 9. Then, later in the week on 4 days rest (like an MLB starting pitcher) he came back and threw 6 innings against Brown. In that game he only allowed 2 runs and struck out 10. The Bulls won both of those games.

Now, lets answer 4 questions about USF Baseball:

#1) What is the main thing you’ve learned about the team in the first 3 weeks of the season? What are you feeling good about and what is the team’s biggest opportunity for improvement? 

Answer provided by John Martin (@JohnnyKII):

Main takeaway through 3 weeks: One thing that I have learned about this team through the first 11 games is that amongst many things, these guys are resilient. This speaks wonders given the amount of youth on the roster. It would be easy to get caught up in the emotions of some of the losses they’ve endured early on this season, but this team keeps trucking along.

Through 11 games the Bulls have lost 4, however they’ve yet to take back-to-back losses. Fostering a culture of bouncing back after adversity will only increase the confidence & cohesiveness of this group.

Biggest opportunity for improvement: Seeing as I like my dessert after my vegetables, I will discuss my concerns early on this season first. This is a fairly short list, primarily because the Bulls have been playing really well out of the gate and the season is young.

The two biggest improvement opportunities I see are offensive consistency & untimely errors. While the Bulls have put up 66 runs through 11 games, nearly half of those have come from 3 games.

I’d like to see the Bulls be more consistent in terms of putting together good at bats. Lastly, while the Bulls have played 4 games of error free baseball, there have also been 7 games in which a total of 10 errors occurred. Several of those errors had a big impact on the momentum swings of the game.

What has impressed you the most: Now for the best part of the meal, dessert! I have been very impressed with the on-field result as a whole.

I am excited to see the continued growth of, in my opinion, what appears to be one of the best pitching staffs the Bulls have ever had. If you follow me on Twitter, it would seem that my wishes are coming to fruition regarding Orion Kerkering joining the weekend starting pitching rotation.

After he excelled last year as the Bulls closer, Orion has only continued to impress as a starting pitcher. In the two games he’s started, he has produced quite the stat line:

11.1 IP, 2 ER, 7 hits, & 19 Ks with only 3 BBs.

While he is still mastering his changeup, it is largely improved from last season. My favorite pitch of his is the slider.  Largely viewed as the best breaking ball in the AAC (American) and spinning at 3,000 RPMs, it presents a huge challenge for hitters.

These two off speed pitches compliment his mid-90s fastball excellently.

Hunter Mink – (Source)

I’ve also been really impressed with our bullpen. They’ve held strong and it seems like every game, a new name comes to the surface. I am really looking forward to seeing more of Hunter Mink, the sophomore who recently transferred in from the University of Florida. He has the command and velocity to step in as the Bulls’ closer if Orion Kerkering stays in the starting pitching rotation.

#2) Who stood out for you over the weekend against Brown?

Answer provided by Matthew Giardino (@BasesOnBulls):

Pitcher: Hunter Mink (sophomore)

Stats vs. Brown: 3.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 6 Ks, 0 BB and 2 saves

Hunter came out of the gate Friday night looking dominant with has fastball sitting 92-93 and topping out at 94. His composure and confidence on the mound are evident. If the Bulls were to permanently insert Orion Kerkering into the rotation, the Bulls have a new closer they can feel good about.

MLB Scouts Checking Out Orion Kerkering

Also, when I was at the game this past Sunday, I noticed a flock of MLB scouts there to see starting pitcher, Orion Kerkering. However, there were a decent amount left in the last inning and I saw many of them raise their radar guns when Hunter started to throw.

Hitter: Nelson Rivera (sophomore catcher)

Stats vs. Brown: 4 for 10, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, HBP

Nelson has been patient at the plate all season, and his patience is now paying off as balls are starting to drop for base hits. Nelson reached base successfully in 6 of his 12 plate appearances vs. Brown and has a solid .395 on base percentage for the season.

Nelson Rivera – (Source)

Earlier in the season, Nelson was hitting a lot of flyouts and appeared to be pushing a little too hard for hitting homeruns. However, in the most recent series, he was hitting line drives and hard grounders in the holes.

#3) With the season being only 3 weeks in, what is a question facing this team that hasn’t  been answered yet? What do you think the answer will be?

Answer provided by Mark Giardino (@USFBaseballFans):

I think the main question facing this team is: “Who are going to be the main offensive contributors outside of the 4 players that are off to hot starts?” 

First, a quick shout out to Carmine Lane (.409), Drew Brutcher (.400), Ben Rozenblum (.326), and Daniel Cantu (.297) who are the only 4 position players to have started every game and have provided a lot of offensive production. 

Outside of that, a lot of other talented Bulls have had some good moments but haven’t totally pieced it together yet. For me, the key word here is patience because there’s definitely a handful of other Bulls that I think will put it all together soon. 

First, let’s look at the guys who started games this past week and are at least a sophomore:

Nelson Rivera (sophomore catcher) – I think he’s starting to heat up. This past weekend vs. Brown, he went 4 for 10 (.400), had a double and 2 RBIs. Nelson finished last season really strong with 15 hits in his last 46 at bats (.326).

Joaquin Monque (sophomore utility) – At first glance, you might think Joaquin is off to a bad start with a .143 batting average through 11 games. However, he already has a home run and he has the lowest strikeout rate (16%) of any player on the Bulls with at least 20 at bats. He’s been putting the ball in play a lot and often hits hard line drives to the outfield. Those hits are going to start to drop soon.

Jarrett Eaton (junior outfielder) – Jarrett doesn’t need an introduction with Bulls fans after what he did in the playoffs last year. During that magical postseason run, he batted .368 across 11 games and had countless game changing hits. His start in 2022 has been slow (.226) but you have to keep in mind that he had surgery on his leg in the off season.

After the surgery, he was busy rehabbing instead of playing in summer and fall baseball games. Jarrett is healthy now and as he continues to get regular at bats over the next few weeks, his timing and comfort levels will improve. Patience.

Lastly, let’s look at the freshmen:

The freshmen on this young Bulls teams have provided a lot of contributions during these first 3 weeks of the season. Highlights include Keanu-Jacobs Guishard (freshman shortstop) ranking T-2nd on the team in doubles (3), Bobby Boser (freshman utility) hitting his first collegiate home run, and Marcus Brodil (freshman outfielder) batting .308 in 13 at bats.

Keanu Jacobs-Guishard – (Source)

Also, Jackson Mayo (freshman outfielder) and Sonny Rao (freshman 1st base) have each already got their first collegiate hits and RBIs.

4) Scouting the week ahead. Boston College. Based on your research of Boston College, who is a player that Bulls fans should look out for and what does that player bring to the table?

Answer provided by John Martin (@JohnnyKII):

I haven’t had a chance to see them play yet but two names that jump off the stat sheets are sophomore Joe Vetrano (1B/P) & junior Luke Gold (2B). Vetrano, similarly to our own Carmine Lane, has at least one hit in every game this season, & provides a very real power threat. However, Gold in my opinion is equally as dangerous, catching fire in the Eagle’s prior series against UNF to the tune of 8 for 13 with 2 RBIs.

Answer provided by Mark Giardino (@USFBaseballFans):

Max Gieg – (Source)

According to Boston College’s official athletics website, they’re expected to start 6’5”, 230lb right handed pitcher, Max Gieg on Tuesday night. The scouting report on him includes a fastball that sits at 95-96 mph and tops out at 97. He also has a horizontal breaking slider that sits between 83-85 mph. Despite these tools, Gieg has not put it together yet at Boston College (17.2 IP, 8.66 ERA for 2021-2022 combined). He did pitch decent this past summer in the Cape posting a 1.50 ERA across 18 innings but still walked 9 batters.

See you all tonight at The Red!

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