TAMPA--The 2010 season began with high hopes for the University of South Florida baseball team, which was tabbed to finish second in the BIG EAST Conference and featured in many of the national preseason polls.
A brutal non-conference schedule and a heap of injuries made the Bulls' path to a BIG EAST Championship and NCAA regional very difficult.
USF's schedule featured 19 games against seven teams that qualified for the NCAA field of 64 teams, with just seven of those games taking place at Red McEwen Field. Five of the Bulls' NCAA opponents are hosting an NCAA regional with two being national seeds, meaning they could host a super regional.
USF’s season peaked after three weeks of conference play, when the Bulls were 8-1 and leading the league standings.
The Bulls went to the BIG EAST Championships at Bright House Field in Clearwater as the tournament's fifth seed after tying with eventual Tournament Champion St. John’s for fourth place.
USF got another strong start from junior Randy Fontanez in the first round against St. John’s but the Bulls' offense went quiet as the Red Storm used a walk-off single to down the Bulls, 3-2, in the ninth.
With its season down to one game, USF eliminated West Virginia in the second round of the tournament setting up a showdown with top-seeded Louisville.
Facing a 7-1 deficit after six innings, the Bulls rallied with six unanswered runs capped by a game-tying two-out, full-count solo home run in the bottom of the ninth from Luis Llerena. The nationally ranked Louisville Cardinals used a two-run homer in the top of the 11th to sneak by the Bulls and advance to the next round of the BIG EAST Tournament.
With the 2010 Major League Baseball draft looming, the Bulls boast 14 draft eligible prospects in addition to five high school signees that are all eligible. With the pending draft, Bulls' head coach Lelo Prado will sit back and wait to see what the 2011 USF Baseball roster looks like as they begin practice this fall.
Llerena Takes USF Batting Title, Hunt Leads Everything else
Powered by a 7-for-13 performance in the BIG EAST Championships, sophomore second baseman Luis Llerena ran away with the USF batting title with a .344 clip in 44 games. After splitting time with freshman Chad Taylor, Llerena asserted himself as the everyday second baseman starting the final 23 games of the season. Over the final 23 games, Llerena hit at a .385 clip with OBP of .477.
While Llerena led the Bulls in average, junior Stephen Hunt led the Bulls in virtually every other offensive category. The Jesuit HS product led the Bulls in hits (67), doubles (47), extra base hits (27), runs scored (47), total bases (108), RBI (44), stolen bases (13) and tied sophomore Daniel Rockhold with seven homers on the season.
Hunt led USF outfielders with four assists and 87 putouts. He also made an appearance on the mound against North Florida working a scoreless inning while striking out the side.
Prado Reaches A Couple Milestones in 2010
With the Bulls' first win of the season, a 11-3 win over Illinois is the Big Ten/ BIG EAST Challenge on February 2, Bulls head coach Lelo Prado won his 100th game as Bulls’ skipper. In four seasons at USF, Prado is 125-110. Just 12 days later, Prado eclipsed another career milestone. With 14-7 win over Mercer at Red McEwen Field, Prado reached 700 career wins. Overall, Prado is 723-535-2 in 21 seasons as a head coach.
He’s Really a Walk-On??
Junior Andrew Barbosa went from walk-on, a relative unknown, to the Bulls’ No. 2 starter and one of the top pitchers in the BIG EAST Conference and member of the 2010 All-BIG EAST second team. Barbosa paced the Bulls on the mound with a 2.40 ERA and a team-high eight wins in 14 starts including 16 strikeouts in his complete-game shutout against Cincinnati on April 2.
His 16 strikeout performance earned him five national pitcher of the week awards in addition to BIG EAST pitcher of the week honors.
His 2.40 earned run average is the sixth lowest ERA by a pitcher in USF history.
Of his 14 starts on the season, Barbosa went 5.0 or more innings in 13 of his starts with the exception being 1.1 scoreless innings against St. John’s due to a lower leg injury.
Barbosa emerged as one of the conference’s most prolific powers pitchers, striking out 95 batters in just 86.1 innings of work. He struck out 10 or more batters on four separate occasions and averaged just fewer than 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
More impressive, Barbosa showcased an impeccable command of the strike zone. The 6’8'' south paw walked just 22 batters on the season.
In BIG EAST play, Barbosa was especially strong going 6-1 with a 1.66 ERA, while holding opposing batters to a .218 batting average. In eight conference starts, he allowed just nine earned runs over 48.2 innings of work.
USF Becomes First School to Win Three Straight National Pitcher of the Week awards
Over three consecutive weeks, three separate USF pitchers were recognized by national collegiate baseball publications as national Pitchers of the Week. Senior Teddy Kaufman (March 22) and juniors Randy Fontanez (March 29) and Andrew Barbosa (April 6) were named Louisville Slugger, TheCollegeBaseballBlog.com, CollegeBaseball360.com , College Baseball Foundation and Diamond Sport’s and CollegeBaseballInsider.com Pitcher of the Week in addition to being recognized by the BIG EAST Conference as the top weekly hurler.
USF is the first school to have three different pitchers awarded national weekly honors in consecutive weeks. However, USF is not the first school to have consecutive winners. In 2009, Stephen Strasburg of San Diego State won it four weeks in a row. Prior to that, the only person to win it three or more times in a row was Mark Prior of Southern California in 2000.
Kaufman began the streak after his 14-strikeout performance against UCF on March 16 in Orlando. Kaufman was followed by Fontanez’s no-hitter on March 27 against Notre Dame and Barbosa rounded out the trio of awards after his complete game shutout of Cincinnati on April 2.
Fontanez Puts up Career Highs
Despite his 5-7 record, junior Randy Fontanez reaffirmed his status as one of the top pitchers in the BIG EAST. Fontanez set career highs in strikeouts (105), innings (110.1) and starts (15). He had four complete games raising his career total to 10 with one being his no-hit shutout of Notre Dame on March 27.
After raking into national and conference honors following his no-hitter, he was also named the BIG EAST pitcher of the week after a complete-game shutout of Villanova and after his one run, seven inning out against Connecticut.
Fontanez extended his streak of 5.0+ innings starts as well. In each of his last 34 starts, Fontanez has throw at least 5.0 innings.
Bulls Go 11-4 at Home in BIG EAST Play, Series Streak Snapped
The Bulls completed the 2010 home portion of their BIG EAST schedule with an 11-4 record while winning four of the five conference series with sweeps of Notre Dame and Georgetown. Prior to the UConn series, which the Bulls lost two of three to the Huskies, USF had won 10 straight BIG EAST series, including six sweeps, at Red McEwen Field.
USF is 22-5 in their 27 homes games against BIG EAST opposition.
Koscso Streak Now 175
Since stepping on to USF’s campus, junior Jonathan Koscso has started each and every game for the Bulls. He has now started 175 consecutive games, having split time at third base, shortstop and second base. The streak is the 10th longest among active collegiate division one players.
Koscso Reaches 200 Career Hits
With his fifth-inning double against West Virginia in the second round of the BIG EAST Championships, Jonathan Koscso eclipsed 200 hits for his career. The Jesuit HS product is a .311 career hitter and accomplished the feat in 650 at-bats. Ryan Lockwood sits four hits shy of the milestone.
Koscso Ties Career Hit by Pitch Mark
Jonathan Koscso tied the career hit by pitch mark after being struck by a pitch in the eighth inning of the second round game against West Virginia in the BIG EAST Championships.
Taking A Lot For The Team
It is no secret that USF batters aren’t afraid to step into a pitch every now and then. In fact, the Bulls ranked first in the BIG EAST and fourth nationally in the category after being hit 113 times.