Mark Giardino (@USFBaseballFans)
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This past weekend the Bulls hosted the Memphis Tigers for their first home conference series of the season. The Bulls dropped the first 2 games of the series and won the finale. As a result, their conference record dropped to 2-7 and their overall record stands at 20-16. Let’s dive into what’s been going on.
Weekend Recap (by Mark)
Thursday – Bulls lose 8 to 2
The game was pretty quiet through the first 4 innings with Memphis leading 1-0. However, in the top of the 5th, the Tigers poured on 7 runs. The Bulls were able to get a couple runs back via RBI base hits from sophomore Matt Ruiz and junior Nick Gonzalez but ultimately the team came up short. After the Memphis explosion in the 5th inning, the bullpen combination of Nolan Hudi, Jack Cebert, and Austin Grause were able to hold Memphis scoreless over the final 4 innings.
Friday – Bulls lose 7 to 3
Friday’s game got off to a tough start as Memphis’ first 4 batters all reached base and 2 of them scored. Fortunately, the Bulls were able to settle down and limit the damage to 2 runs that inning. This allowed the Bulls to fight back and after 4 innings they were only down by 1 in a 3-2 game. Matt Ruiz and Nick Gonzalez each turned in multi-hit games in a night where the Bulls were able to get 10 team hits but struggled getting baserunners in (12 total left on base).
Saturday – Bulls win 9 to 2
Saturday’s game was a lot of fun. It was great seeing some of the Bulls’ youngest players have great performances to give the team a much needed spark. Freshmen Sonny Rao and Bobby Boser combined to go 4 for 5 and reach base in 7 of their 8 plate appearances. Carmine Lane and Jackson Mayo combined to drive in 7 of the team’s 9 runs and the pitching trio of Ethan Brown (SO), Tanner Mink (SO), and freshman Joey Volini (FR) held Memphis to 2 runs.
Biggest Storylines for USF Baseball Right Now (by Mark)
Injuries to Key Players
In Coach Mohl’s post game interview on Saturday, he stated that multiple Bulls players are out for significant amounts of time.
Jack Jasiak out for the Season
The most significant injury that Mohl discussed was that of sophomore right handed pitcher, Jack Jasiak. After a full workload in his first 3 starts of the season, Jack missed a couple of starts throughout March. He then made a start on March 26th against Niagara but has not appeared since. According to Mohl’s comments on Saturday, Jasiak will be out for the rest of the season due to an injury.
Jasiak is eligible for the 2022 MLB Draft and as long as teams can get comfortable with his injury situation, I think he’ll get drafted or have the opportunity to sign this July. He’s been incredible in his 3 years as a Bull throwing 149 innings to a 2.66 ERA with 151 strikeouts to only 30 walks. If March 26th was the last time we saw Jasiak throw in the Green & Gold, we just want to say thank you for everything he’s done for the program and hope he starts feeling better soon.
He’s still with the team during all home games so hopefully his veteran presence and knowledge will be a resource for all of the young Bulls pitchers currently on the roster.
Other Significant Injuries
In addition to the Jasiak news we were also informed that outfielder Drew Brutcher and catcher Ben Rozenblum will also miss time. Brutcher, the team leader in OPS (1.075) , will be out for a month with what Mohl called a lower body injury. Rozenblum, who ranks 4th on the Bulls in hits (27) will be out for 2 to 3 weeks with a foot injury. Both players are sophomores and are everyday starters in this Bulls lineup when healthy. We hope they have speedy recoveries.
A Timely Breakout Game
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Bulls who had started conference play 1-7 and also had home non-conference losses to UNF and FGCU during that span. In the middle of the 3rd inning of Saturday’s game, the Bulls trailed 2-0 and it appeared that the losing streak might continue. Fortunately, the Bulls got a game changing hit from a freshman who had not appeared in a game in nearly 3 weeks.
With runners on 1st and 2nd, 0 outs, and the Bulls trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the 3rd, freshman DH Sonny Rao stepped up to the plate. Making only his 17th at bat of the year, in the Bulls’ 36th game, Rao drove a 1-1 hanging breaking ball deep to center field for his first career triple and 2 RBIs. The freshman’s hit tied the game at 2-2 and allowed Carmine Lane to hit the go ahead RBI in the next at bat. The Bulls took a 3-2 lead that they would never relinquish.
Major props to Rao for being ready when his opportunity came. Rao added on another base hit later in the game and reached base safely in all 4 of his plate appearances.
Young Pitchers Heating Up (by Mark)
With Jack Jasiak out for the rest of the season, the Bulls are going to need young pitchers to step up and fill the void. Based on recent performances, it appears there are some guys who are up to the task:
Nolan Hudi (FR. LHP) – The freshman transfer from TCU has been a revelation for this young Bulls team. Getting the job done with rotation, location, and variation, the southpaw has been dominant as of late. In his last 17.2 innings pitched, Hudi holds a 2.04 ERA and has 14 strikeouts vs. just 3 walks. Given the Jasiak news, is there a chance we see Hudi be converted to starting pitcher? All 11 of Hudi’s appearances in collegiate summer baseball were as a starter. In those 11 starts, this is the stat line Hudi compiled:
47.2 IP, 3.59 ERA, 59 K, 9 BB, 1.03 WHIP, 6.55 K:BB ratio
It’s clear that Hudi can handle that type of workload and deliver great results.
Jack Cebert (FR. RHP) – The freshman from Calvary Christian Clearwater has been getting his game back as of late. He had a great fall camp which earned him the Sunday starting pitching role to begin the season. He had a few rough outings in that role but has since recovered very well. In his last 4 appearances, all out of the bullpen, Cebert has pitched 6.1 innings and only allowed 2 earned runs for a 2.84 ERA. Even more impressive, Cebert has done a nice job of keeping runners off the bases with a 1.26 WHIP during that span.
Tanner Mink (SO. RHP) – The sophomore from Palm Harbor, currently in his 3rd year with the program, has progressed really well in what is only his 2nd season as a full time pitcher. In Tanner’s last 2 outings, he’s given the Bulls 4.2 innings, hasn’t allowed any runs, and has not walked any batters. When Tanner is locating his fastball well as he has in the last couple outings, it allows his devastating 12 to 6 curveball to be used as an out pitch. Continued strong performances from T. Mink will be huge for the Bulls.
Joey Volini (FR. LHP) – The freshman from Tampa (Jesuit HS) did not even make an appearance until the Bulls’ 24th game of the season which occurred on March 29th against Bethune Cookman. It turns out, he was worth the wait as he’s been an awesome addition to this Bulls pitching staff. In 6 appearances and 5.2 innings, Volini has compiled a 3.18 ERA and a solid 1.24 WHIP. His commanding presence on the mound has been a welcome sight for Bulls fans.
Ethan Brown (SO. LHP) – We wrote about Ethan’s rise to the weekend starting rotation last week, but Brown continues to deliver. This past weekend, he fought through some bad breaks to give the Bulls 4 solid innings in a game against Memphis that the Bulls would go on to win. Brown has taken his game to another level in the past month. Since March 26th, this has been Brown’s stat line across 5 appearances:
14 IP, 1.93 ERA, 14 K, 4 BB, 1.36 WHIP, 3.5 K:BB ratio
Tommy Groom (FR. RHP) – The freshman from Orlando, in his 2nd year with the program after redshirting in year 1, has made the most of his limited opportunities. In 6.2 innings across 7 relief appearances, the freshman has not allowed any earned runs. Groom’s longest appearance of the season is 1.1 innings. For me, the one thing I want to see with Groom is can he be stretched out for a longer outing? Can he give the Bulls 2 to 3 innings on occasion? With Jasiak out the rest of the year, the Bulls will need relievers to eat innings when possible.
There’s a plethora of other talented freshman and sophomore arms in the Bulls’ bullpen who we didn’t mention today but are very capable of getting on a roll just like the players mentioned above. With Jasiak out the rest of the season, the Bulls are going to need more young guys to step up and fill the void. Look out for other young pitchers to make a name for themselves as we head down the home stretch of the regular season.
The Bulls are on the road today to face FAMU at 4pm in Tallahassee. Neither team has announced their starting pitcher yet but FAMU is likely to roll out left handed pitcher Shawn Host, a JUCO transfer. Host has a 8.03 ERA on the season but was solid his last time out giving the Rattlers 7.2 innings in a mid-week start against Mercer in which he only allowed 4 runs.
We also have not seen any TV or radio information made available but there is a link to live stats that we’ll be following the game on.
As always, Horns Up and Go Bulls!