Observations from Fall Exhibition vs. St. Leo (11/7/21).

Tampa, FL

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This past Sunday we had a chance to check out USF Baseball’s fall exhibition game vs. St. Leo.

The game started at 5pm and the weather was perfect. Blue skies and temperatures in the mid-60s.

After the best season in USF Baseball’s history, we were very excited to get a peek at the 2021-2022 squad. The team is returning many key pieces from last year’s Super Regional run but there are also a lot of exciting new additions.

We were there for all 14 innings. The two teams squared off for 7 innings, took a brief 20 minute break and then went at it again for another 7 innings. Overall, USF defeated St. Leo 7 to 5 over the 14 innings.

Our recap will be on a player-by-player basis. We will share with you our observations about each player who appeared during the 14 inning affair.

NOTE: USF Baseball has not published a Box Score from the game so all of this information is from memory. Players are listed in alphabetical order.

Albert Hernandez – Did not appear

Austin Grause  – Did not appear

Ben Rozenblum – C – RHB – r SO – The FIU transfer featured prominently the whole night. Considering his strong track record at FIU, that wasn’t surprising. He batted in the middle of the order and both caught and DH’d. The scouting report on him was that he has a knack for getting on base and that definitely seems to be the case. He was able to walk, got hit by a pitch 3 times, and hit a game tying homerun in the 6th inning. It seemed like he got on base every time he was up. His at bats are long, he has a discerning eye, and he’s able to foul off borderline pitches to keep the at bat alive. He projects to be a big part of the 2022 team.

Bobby Boser – IF – RHB – FR – We saw a couple at bats from the true freshman. The first one that I saw, he had a couple swings and misses and struck out. But, in his next at bat he was able to adjust, work the count and ultimately was rewarded with a strong base hit up the middle. He also played 3rd base and looked good there, showing off a strong arm. Bobby definitely looks the part. He’s very big and strong for a true freshman.

Brad Lord – RHP – r JR – Brad came in and pitched the 3rd and 4th innings. He looks as good as or better than he did towards the end of last year when he played a key role in the Bulls playoff push. He held St. Leo scoreless over two frames. His velocity looks good, I saw him hit 93 on the stadium radar gun.

Caleb Pundsack – LHP – SO – Caleb pitched in the 2nd half of the 14 inning exhibition. I expected him to look good after putting up big stats in the Valley Baseball League (14.1 IP, 18 Ks, 1.88 ERA) over the summer. He definitely lived up to expectations. He held St Leo scoreless over 1 inning.

Carmine Lane – 3B – r SO – Carmine was one of the key players in last year’s playoff run and will be just as important for the Bulls this season. He started the 1st half of the exhibition at leadoff and third base. I saw him make hard contact on a line drive to the deep right field but it was caught. He played his usual high level defense at third base.

Connor Manning – Did not appear

Daniel Cantu – RF – LHB – r SO – Cantu started in right field and batted at the heart of the order. He made a tough play look easy in deep right centerfield on a fly ball in the gap. He also had an RBI base hit later in the evening. He was another key player last year and that will be the case this season too.

Dawson Barr – Did not appear

Devin Hemenway – LHP – r JR – Devin might be the player of the night. He struck out 5 batters in 2 innings and was completely dominant. He picked up right where he left off when he struck out 6 across 3 scoreless in innings in the Gainesville Regional earlier this year. His slider to lefties is unhittable and it’s effective vs. righties too. His velocity is good around 90 or a little above. We lost a lot of pitchers that were used in high leverage situations last season, and we need new guys to step up. It looks like Devin can be one of those guys.

Drew Brutcher – CF – LHB – SO – Drew started in centerfield and batted 2nd in the order in the first game. I saw him hit a ball really hard into right field for a line drive base hit early in the night. I also saw a couple swings and misses during an at bat which he struck out but overall he looks good. Drew led the team in OPS (On Base Plus Slugging) last season and is one of our best hitters. His strikeout rate from last season (24%) is a little high and I think that’s the one thing he’ll look to improve this year. Everything else last season was at an elite level in terms of production (421. OBP & 546. SLG).

Dusty Snyder – Did not appear

Dylan Vega – Did not appear

Ethan Brown – Did not appear

Frank Micallef – C – RHB – FR – I saw Frank enter the game late in the night at Catcher. I saw one at bat but it really wasn’t enough to make any observations yet.

Hunter Mink – RHP – r SO – Hunter came into the game in what was effectively a save situation. The Bulls had just taken a 3-2 lead after some clutch hitting and Hunter came in right after in the Top of the 7th. The game was 7 innings so that was the final inning. Hunter looked really good. He moves really athletically in his delivery and got up to 92 from what I saw. He was able to navigate through a baserunner or two to keep St. Leo off the board and preserve the 3-2 lead. I believe he ended the game with a strikeout when there was a runner on 3rd base which was impressive.

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Jack Cebert – RHP – FR – Jack started the 2nd game of the double header. He pitched really well. He threw 2 innings of shut-out ball and had 90mph easily. For a true freshman to come in, get the start, and pitch the way he did was very impressive. He generated swing and miss on both his fastball and breaking pitch. I believe he mixed in a change up as well but I was watching this part of the game from the outfield so it was a little hard to tell. From what I saw, he looks like another strong contender to be used in high leverage situations next season.

Jack Jasiak – Did not appear

Jackson Mayo – CF – LHB – FR – I saw him get into the game in the outfield in the second game. I only remember one at bat and he hit a ground ball the opposite way. He showed off good speed as he almost beat out the throw for an infield hit. Other that, I didn’t get to watch him enough to make more observations.

Jake Feffer – Did not appear

Jarrett Eaton – Did not appear

Joaquin Monque – C/1B – RHB – SO – Joaquin started the first game at first base. I only saw a couple of at bats. He was able to get the ball in play but didn’t find any gaps on the at bats I saw. He has been leading the team in exit velocity in a lot of the scrimmages earlier this fall so I think his game is in a good place. I just didn’t get to watch him that much as I don’t recall seeing him in the 2nd half of the scrimmage.

Joey Volini – Did not appear

Joseph Sanchez – LHP – r SR – Joe Sanchez picked up where he left off from the postseason. His role gradually grew as last season went on and eventually he became one of the most trusted and reliable pitchers on the team. It looks like he has only gotten better since then. He had a couple strikeouts and did not allow a run in his inning of work. One strikeout came on what looked like a quick pitch that the batter wasn’t ready for. It was funny to watch live. His energy and game both look great right now.

Keanu Jacobs-Guishard – Did not appear

Marcus Brodil – LF/RF – LHB – FR – Marcus started in the first game along with all of last year’s star players and FIU transfer Ben Rozenblum. He was the only freshman to get the start. At first, he may have had some first game jitters as he misplayed a couple of balls in the outfield. After that though, he really settled down and had a good night. He had some very impressive at bats. In one long at bat where he battled a lot, he drew a walk. He then stole a base on some heads up base running and ultimately scored the run that put the Bulls ahead in the bottom of the 6th. Then in the top of the 7th, he made a great diving catch coming forwards and to his left which helped Hunter Mink get the save. The freshman looks good.

Matt Ruiz – IF/OF – RHB – SO – Matt Ruiz started the game at shortstop which was very interesting. I did not see him play there at all last year. We did see him at third base, second base, and outfield last year which shows his versatility. I wasn’t surprised that he played well at shortstop considering his slick fielding at second last year and the strong arm he showed last year at third. He made one play in particular deep in the hole on a backhand that was really impressive and he got the runner out. I didn’t see a lot from him at the plate this night but he was one of our top hitters last year and I expect that to continue in the spring. Another note on Matt is he is a fierce competitor. He made a crazy swim move slide at home plate to avoid the tag and score a run. He was hyped and so was the crowd. It felt like we were back in Clearwater or Gainesville for a second.

Nelson Rivera – C – RHB – SO – Nelson had a great night. He came in at catcher after Ben Rozenblum’s start. He made a great throw down to second to catch a runner stealing and end the inning. He also was his usual clutch self at the plate. It was the bottom of the 6th, there were 2 outs, a runner on 2nd and the game was tied 2-2. After working a long at bat with a lot of good takes and foul offs, Nelson connected on a full count offering for a smash of an RBI double into the right field gap. It was awesome to see. Nelson got really hot towards the end of last year and it looks like that will continue.

Nick Gonzalez – SS – RHB – r JR – Nick started the second game at shortstop. I saw him make a really nice play where he charged forward on a slow roller and gunned the runner out at 1st. I also saw only one of his at bats but he hit a really solid line drive to right field for a base hit. Over the summer, a writer for Baseball America said he was the best defensive shortstop that he saw in the North Woods League. If he can get the bat going like he just showed this past night, he can be a real force for the Bulls.

Nolan Hudi – LHP – r FR – Nolan came in to pitch in the second game of the double header. He brought a lot of positive energy and competitiveness to the mound. He made just a couple minor mistakes from a pitching standpoint which resulted in a couple of runs allowed but you can see what makes him good. He has really good control and movement on his pitches.

Orion Kerkering – RHP – r SO – One of the heroes of last year’s playoff run made the start on the mound in game 1. He was used last season mostly as a long reliever and closer but is looking to convert to starting pitcher. The main thing to note for Orion right now is that his velocity is looking really good. He sits 95 and can run it up to 97. His breaking ball is tight and powerful. He did give up a couple runs and struggled a little bit with control. He worked two innings.

Richey Lakes – 1B – LHB – r FR – I saw Richey make one at bat but it was too small of a sample size to make any observations.

Roberto Peña – 2B / LF – RHB – r JR – Roberto started the first game at second base which was a place we saw him a lot last year before the move to centerfield. He looks very comfortable at the plate and worked deep into counts often. He roped a line drive over the 3rd baseman’s head and used his legs to stretch it out into a double. I think a big year is ahead for the veteran that led USF in homeruns last season.

Sonny Rao – 1B – LHB – FR – I saw one at bat from Sonny later in the night. He looked good in the box and was able to work deep into the count. There was a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs. He was able to put the ball in play and get the run across. He also played well at 1st.

Tanner Mink – RHP – r SO – Tanner came in during the second game of the doubleheader. He pitched a scoreless inning and looked good in the process. His velocity was upper 80s and his breaking ball looked good as ever. He used that 12 to 6 curve to get a strikeout to end the inning. His fastball control looked improved from last season too which was great to see.

Tayden Hall – C – LHB – FR – I only saw one at bat from Tayden but it was impressive. He worked deep into the count with a lot of good takes and foul offs along the way. He was ultimately able to hit a hard line drive to opposite field (LF) for a basehit. Also looks very big and strong for a true freshman already standing in at 6’4”.

Tommy Groom – Did not appear

Tyler Dietz – Did not appear

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