TAMPA, DEC. 13, 2017 – The 53rd season of USF baseball begins on Feb. 16 and first-year head coach Billy Mohl is thrilled to announce the 2018 schedule.
The 54-game slate features 33 contests at USF Baseball Stadium. Totaling 15 games, the Bulls will face seven teams that earned NCAA Regional berths in 2017, four of which hosted a regional.
“We are pleased to announce our 2018 schedule,” said coach Mohl. “Our non-conference slate is one that features multiple teams who finished last year ranked in the top 25. To kick off the year, we will open up with what will be a highly ranked University of North Carolina team at home, giving us a great opportunity against a marquee program. We will stay in Tampa for the first seven weekends of the season, giving our fans plenty of opportunities to show their support.”
Bulls Will Be Tested Early
With what might be one of the more challenging starts to a season in program history, the Bulls take on a pair of storied college baseball programs in the year’s first four games. Opening day is set for Feb. 16, as USF welcomes UNC for a monstrous three-game series. This marks the fifth time in the last six seasons the Bulls are opening at home, but USF has never opened against an ACC constituent. Both sides last met in the Coral Gables Regional in 1995.
Similar to 2017, USF’s first road contest of the new campaign will be against a familiar foe in the fourth game. The Bulls battle Florida State in Tallahassee on Feb. 20. USF toppled the then-No. 3 Seminoles on the road last season, the first road win over FSU since 1987.
The Bulls won 19 consecutive games in 2017 and 18 of those victories came at home. USF will again stay put for the first half of the season, as it does not leave the state of Florida until April. After the trip to FSU, the Bulls host Fordham Feb. 23-25. USF then travels to Daytona Beach for a Wednesday night tilt at Bethune-Cookman on Feb. 28.
The Bulls return home for a four-game series against Columbia University (March 2-4). That Saturday is the only scheduled doubleheader for the Bulls in 2018. USF is at Jacksonville for another midweek road contest (March 7) before hosting Central Michigan for three games (March 9-11). USF baseball fans get a chance to see their home team in the first two midweek affairs in Tampa against FGCU (March 13) and Jacksonville (March 14).
USF hosts its first military academy since 2006, when Army stations itself in Tampa for a three-game set (March 16-18). The Bulls and Black Knights have met on the diamond a total of 17 times. USF heads back to Jacksonville for a matchup with North Florida (March 20) before diving into league play.
Pow6rful American Schedule
The highly competitive American Athletic Conference had three teams in regionals a season ago (USF, UCF, Houston). The conference sent 26 players to the big leagues in June’s MLB Draft, the most in The American’s four-year history. The Bulls begin their quest for a conference title at home against UConn (March 23-25). USF hosts Stetson on Tuesday, March 27 before welcoming Tulane for a three-game set (March 29-31).
The Bulls depart the sunshine state for the first time to begin April, as they make a trip to the defending conference champions Houston (April 6-8). Following a rematch with Stetson in DeLand on April 10, USF travels north for a three-game series at East Carolina (April 13-15).
The Bulls are back in town for the final home stand of 2018 to close out the month. USF hosts North Florida (April 17) prior to the latest installment of baseball’s War on I-4 (April 20-22). The Bulls took four of seven meetings in last year’s rivalry series, which included a sweep of UCF in Tampa.
USF takes on Bethune-Cookman (April 24), then hosts Memphis in the final home series of the regular season (April 27-29).
The season resumes on May 8, when the Bulls begin an eight-game road trip spanning 12 days. The defending national champs Florida await USF for a Tuesday night clash in Gainesville. The Bulls defeated a fifth-ranked Gators team on the road on May 9 last season, 15-10.
Following the trip to Gainesville, USF makes its first visit to the league’s newest member Wichita State for a three-game set (May 11-13). The Bulls are at FGCU (May 15) and at Cincinnati (May 17-19) to conclude the regular season.
“As always, the American Athletic Conference will be one of the premier conferences in college baseball and it was strengthened with the addition of Wichita State,” said Mohl. “We look forward to competing each and every weekend against some to the top teams in the country. Our players have been hard at work and we look forward to seeing everyone compete this spring.”
The American Athletic Conference Championship returns to Spectrum Field in Clearwater May 22-27. The NCAA Regionals are set for June 1-4. The Super Regionals are June 8-10 and the College World Series is scheduled for June 16-27.
2018 Bulls at a Glance
USF returns a wealth of talent in 2018, as 65 percent of the run production from a season ago is on this year’s roster. Led by seven returning position starters, two of the weekend starting pitchers, the closer, a pair of all-conference honorees and an All-American, first-year head coach Mohl will have plenty at his disposal.
As the architect behind a pitching staff that recorded more than 500 strikeouts in three-consecutive seasons and led the nation in strikeouts per nine innings in 2017, Mohl will lean on lefty Shane McClanahan (Cape Coral, Fla.), who finished eighth nationally with 12.32 strikeouts per nine innings a season ago. Also returning to the staff is redshirt senior righty and all-conference selection Peter Strzelecki (Lake Worth, Fla.), who finished second in The American with a 2.42 ERA.
A veteran lineup, featuring seven returning starters, is highlighted by senior outfielder Duke Stunkel Jr. (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.). Stunkel Jr. led the Bulls with 16 doubles, finished fifth in The American with a .344 average and scored 37 runs.