By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Kevin Quackenbush has proven that his spectacular senior season at USF was no fluke.
The San Diego Padres' eighth-round selection in 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft has shined brightly in pro ball after setting a USF record for relievers with a 0.80 earned run average to cap off his collegiate career.
Quackenbush has been promoted twice since he was drafted and was named a Class A California League Mid-Season All-Star this year. USF's former closer has settled into the role nicely with the Lake Elsinore Storm, going 3-1 with a 0.63 ERA and 19 saves so far this season.
"Closing, you feel a certain adrenaline rush when the game is on the line," Quackenbush said. "It's really exciting, this feeling you get inside you."
Quackenbush has a much different approach to pitching than he had as an incoming freshman at USF. The Tampa native was a starter for Jesuit High School, threw two no-hitters and eventually became a nationally ranked prospect by Baseball America.
Quackenbush's career as a starter for USF didn't go quite as well with the former all-state selection lasting only 1 1/3 innings of his collegiate debut.
"Ever since then I've been in the bullpen and I started closing my sophomore year," he said.
Quackenbush described his first three college seasons as "pretty average" with his best ERA total coming as a sophomore at 3.94. It all started to click for the right-hander during the fall of his senior year while working with new pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, who spent 31 seasons guiding arms in pro baseball.
Quackenbush had a strong arm already with his fastball topping out at 96 while it averaged in the low 90s. Hernandez knew he had something special and brought Quackenbush back to the basics to establish control.
"I just calmed his hands down and we put him into the stretch," Hernandez said. "All fall I wanted him to get total control of his fastball down and away. That's what we started with."
Next up was locating his fastball in four different locations and then utilizing his curveball at different speeds, which provided him with an effective way to strike hitters out.
"More than anything it was about executing; repeating your delivery and executing pitches. That's what started him on the roll," Hernandez said.
Quackenbush went on to lead the Big East with 12 saves that ranked him 13th nationally in 2011. He struck out 46 in 33 2/3 innings and the scouts were well aware of his game by the time he hung up his Bulls cap for the last time.
"I was definitely shocked. To be drafted in the eighth round was a lot higher than I was expecting," Quackenbush said. "It's been a great experience so far."
Quackenbush's first pro season was like a dream come true as he posted a combined 0.64 ERA with 18 saves at two different levels. The former All-Big East selection has continued to improve at the high-A level this year while using a simplified approach that made him a star with the Bulls.
"I'm just trying to get ahead of hitters, use my fastball to work both sides of the plate and so far, so good," he said. "I've been having a lot of fun and a lot of success. Hopefully I can keep it going."
Here is a look at how former Bulls are faring in pro baseball this season:
|Austin Adams||L.A. Angels||P||Pioneer (R)||Orem||4.05 ERA, 2 SV|
|Andrew Barbosa||Arizona||P||Midwest (A)||South Bend||
0-1, 4.66 ERA, 9.2 IP
|Jeff Baisley||3B||Recently became a free agent|
|Juan Carlin||L.A. Angels||P||Midwest (A)||Cedar Rapids||7-day disabled list|
|Randy Fontanez||N.Y. Mets||P||S. Atlantic (A)||Savannah||1-3, 4.05 ERA, 40 IP|
|Stephen Hunt||Cincinnati||RF||California (A)||Bakersfield||.187, 9 RBIs|
|Devin Ivany||Washington||C||Eastern (AA)||Harrisburg||.226, 2 HR, 11 RBIs|
|Sam Mende||Colorado||SS||S. Atlantic (A)||Asheville||.295, 8 HR, 49 RBIs|
|Addison Maruszak||Yankees||1B||Eastern (AA)||Tranton||.305, 11 HR, 38 RBIs|
|Jimmy Moran||Cincinnati||P||Pioneer (R)||Billings||1-1, 3.18 ERA, 14 Ks|
|Danny Otero||S.F.||P||Pac. Coast (AAA)||Fresno||3-4, 3.27 ERA, 41 IP|
|Kevin Quackenbush||San Diego||P||California (A)||Lake Elsinore||3-1, 0.63 ERA, 19 SV|
|Shawn Sanford||S.F.||P||California (A)||San Jose||5-6, 5.54 ERA, 39 Ks|
|Eric Sim||S.F.||C||Pac. Coast (AAA)||Fresno||Recently reassigned|
|Derrick Stultz||Arizona||P||Northwest (A)||Yakima||No appearances yet|