Brazeal, like Lockwood, shining as freshman
One year after USF's Ryan Lockwood hauled in a slew of conference and even national all-freshman honors, another redshirt freshman is leading the way for the Bulls and making a case for similar accolades.
Todd Brazeal, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound first baseman from Tampa's Chamberlain High, has been a key part of USF's 15-3 record in Big East play, leading the first-place Bulls in RBIs and extra-base hits in conference games.
"He's done an unbelievable job at first base, and offensively, he's putting some great numbers together," coach Lelo Prado said after Wednesday's 9-3 win against Central Florida. "When he gets bigger and stronger, where he's lifting balls out of here, I think you're going to see the best days from Todd Brazeal."
Brazeal, who took a medical redshirt last season, ranks among the top Big East freshmen in several statistical categories -- his .379 batting average in conference games ranks second, as does his overall .366 average, and he's tied for first among league freshmen with 23 RBIs in conference games. Among USF's every-day starters, only Lockwood is hitting for a higher average.
"(Assistant) Tino (Martinez) used to always tell us, 'That guy can hit, that guy can hit,'" Prado said. "But defensively, he's really made some nice plays there."
The Bulls (28-16) play host to Cincinnati (23-19, 10-8) this weekend in their final home Big East series before finishing the season at Louisville and Notre Dame. As the Bulls seek a return to the NCAA regionals, Prado said he believes a strong finish can put USF in the field, even if the Bulls (RPI 76) don't win the Big East tournament in Clearwater in three weeks.
"We've done a really good job playing on weekends. I'm a little disappointed the way we've played during the week, because if we play any kind of baseball in the middle of the week, we're a top-10 baseball team," Prado said. "But we haven't. That's who we are. We just have to make a run here these last 12 games and make a run at a regional. That's what we're shooting for. This program has to get back to a regional. ... If we finish strong and make a good showing at the conference tournament, there's no doubt we're one of the top 64 teams."