FROM PRESS RELEASE
In his second season at the University of South Florida, head coach Lelo Prado looks for the Bulls baseball team to make waves in the BIG EAST Conference as well as earning a berth into the postseason for the first time since 2002.
“There’s no doubt that we have to compete for a conference championship and get back into the regional,” said Prado. “Our pitching and defense are the keys. Our pitching is young, but if those guys get a little confidence behind them, I think they will be very good this year.”
Prado and his coaching staff, including Lazer Collazo, Bryant Ward, Tino Martinez and Greg Parris, have added 24 newcomers – 10 transfers and 14 true freshmen – to the 11 retuning players, comprising a squad of 22 underclassmen and just five seniors.
“We’re going to have some pretty good players but we are young, so we need some of those guys to come through for us,” said Prado. “The key is the youth of the pitching staff and how fast they come along.”
The Bulls’ newcomers, whom Collegiate Baseball Newspaper tabbed as the 43rd-best recruiting class in the country, are a lineup that includes four players selected in the Major League Baseball Draft, two NJCAA National Champions, a pair of players from a California State Championship Final Four team, an FCCAA State Champion, high school prospects ranked by Baseball America and a high school all-American.
The 2008 Bulls have experience up the middle as the team returns 2007 third team All-BIG EAST second baseman Dexter Butler (.324, 44 RBI) and 2006 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, shortstop Addison Maruszak (.329, 44 RBI, 13 doubles). Returning seniors Joey Angelberger (OF/1B) and Charles Cleveland (3B/1B), along with junior outfielder Mike Consolmagno will all be battling for starting roles this year.
The pitching staff looks forward to the return of junior right handed pitcher Daniel Thomas, who took a red-shirt year last season. Sophomore pitchers Shawn Sanford (3.10 ERA, 11 saves, 72.2 IP) and Matt Quevedo (4-3, 4.01 ERA, 71.0 IP) will add experience to the mound for the Bulls this year.
“I’m excited to see what we have got, and hopefully we have enough to win a BIG EAST championship and move on to the regional tournament,” said Prado.
USF’s pitchers bring a combination of experience as only six have thrown a pitch in a collegiate baseball game, including 2007 starters Daniel Thomas and Matt Quevedo, and Shawn Sanford, a closer who earned 11 saves before starting four games for USF in his rookie year.
“Our success is going to depend on the health of the staff, especially Thomas, Quevedo and Sanford,” said Prado. “If they perform then it won’t put so much pressure on the younger guys. If we can get the ball to Shawn Sanford in the ninth inning there’s no question that he should be one of the best closers in the country this year. As along as we can give him the ball in the ninth, he should be pretty good. Then we have left handed pitchers (transfers) David Torcise and Teddy Kauffman, who can really help this program.”
Torcise came to USF from Louisville in 2007, but had to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules. Kauffman is a transfer from Miami who was used as a situational reliever in 2007.
“The pitching staff is where the young bodies are,” said Prado. “Once the lights go on, we’ll see who steps up. We do have some great arms. Derek Stultz should be solid as well as Randy Fontanez, Kevin Quackenbush, Zach Pietrzyk, Stephen Hunt and Junior Carlin. We have plenty good arms and we just have to see who’s going to produce at the right time.”
USF reloaded the catcher position this season, as all four guys behind the plate are newcomers to the team. A junior from NJCAA National Champion Chipola CC, Trey Manz leads the crop of catchers, trailed by sophomore Cory Johnson, who batted .375 for Liberty University last season.
“Trey played on a national championship team last year so he knows how to win,” said Prado. “He didn’t have a very good fall, but I think he’s going to do real well in the spring. Cory can definitely help us there as a back up catcher.”
The Bulls return middle infielders Addison Maruszak (ss) and Dexter Butler (2b), but will look to newcomers to fill spots on the corners.
“Addison Maruszak and Dexter Butler are two key ingredients to our infield,” said Prado. “They have been through it and know how to do it. If those guys have good years we should be good. We can also look to the young guys like Jonathan Koscso, who had a great fall, so we won’t have to rely on them (Maruszak and Butler) so much. Cleveland is another guy that should help us a lot this year.”
Koscso, senior Charles Cleveland and sophomore Victor Pina are battling for starts at third base while junior college transfer Brandon Smith and freshman Todd Brazeal are fighting for first.
Koscso, who won the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association National Championship with the U-17 All-American Prospects last summer, was a first team all-state player batting .525 with five home runs and 41 RBI at Jesuit in Tampa. Cleveland started 29 games for the Bulls last season, 22 of which were at the designated hitter spot. He produced five doubles in his 26 hits, driving in 20 runs. In 2007 Pina made five appearances for the Bulls, all at third base.
Smith attended Sacramento City College in 2007, where he helped the team to the Final Four of the California State Championships. Coming out of high school, Brazeal was ranked as the 112th-best prospect in the country by Baseball America.
“Brandon is going to be big for us. He is going to do a good job at first base and then Brazeal and Pina, when they get their chances, are going to do a good job,” continued Prado. “I expect great careers out of those guys, especially Brazeal. I think he gets better and better every day. ”
The outfield will be anchored by transfer Ryan Lockwood, who will be complimented with Chris Rey or Junior Carlin in left and Mike Consolmagno or Joey Angelberger in right.
Lockwood, a redshirt at Florida last year, played summer ball in the Cape Cod League in 2007 and was an all-state player for Jesuit High in Tampa his senior season.
“It starts in center field and having Lockwood there is a plus,” said Prado. “He’s one of the best guys I’ve had the luxury of coaching. He’s going to be a leadoff guy with homerun potential. He knows how to play the game and he should bring a lot to the plate for this club.”
One of only two returning outfielders, Consolmagno will contribute speed in right field and two years of USF experience. He has played in 91 games in two seasons, increasing his batting average more than .100 points from his freshman to his sophomore season.
Angelberger will be battling for a starting spot in right after batting .279 last season with seven doubles, two triples and three home runs.
Carlin, a freshman, and Rey, a junior, will vie for the nod in left field, both bringing a strong bat to the plate as well as good defense in the field. Carlin, an outfielder and LHP who was selected in the 29th round of the MLB draft by the Boston Red Sox, batted .375 for Riverview High with a .484 slugging percentage. Rey batted .403 at Miami Dade last season and was second on the team with 36 RBI in 158 at bats.
“Consolmagno had a great fall and I think he deserves a chance to play,” said Prado. “He’s done a good job. Rey, Carlin and Angelberger will fit in the other spots.”
Prado has yet to determine a designated hitter and plans to use numerous guys at the position, but will look to Joey Angelberger, Todd Brazeal and Stephen Hunt early in the season.
“Designated hitter is going to be a toss up,” he said. “It could be several guys like Angelberger, Brazeal, Hunt, Brandon Smith or Eric Baumann. Whoever doesn’t play a position is going to shoot for that DH spot. We’ll play different guys all the time like we did last year, it will be a revolving door.”
With the official start date of college baseball set at Feb. 22, the Bulls will play 56 regular season games in 89 days. The schedule spans 21 teams from nine conferences, with 44 games played in the state of Florida. The 2008 listing includes six teams (17 games) that competed in the 2007 NCAA Tournament and recorded 40-plus wins last season.
USF’s 34-home game schedule includes five teams (10 games) that are ranked in national preseason Top 30 polls and a rigorous 15-game BIG EAST slate. The Bulls begin the season with 18 of their first 19 contests at home, and have a late-season run of seven-consecutive games at the newly-renovated Red McEwen Field.
USF will face off against the New York Yankees in an exhibition game at Legends Field in Tampa on Feb. 29. The NCAA-MLB matchup will be the Yankees’ first spring training game of the year, and the Bulls’ fifth game of the 2008 season.