Notes: Mende ends freshman year strong
A bright spot for USF in a disappointing finish to the Big East tournament was the strong play of freshman shortstop Sam Mende, who went 4-for-4 Saturday to finish the season on an eight-game hit streak.
"I honestly don't know where it came from. I wish I could have done it for the guys earlier in the year," said Mende, who went to Clearwater Central Catholic. "It came now and it was nice, a great feeling, but I just wish we could be playing a little longer."
Mende went 11-for-17 in the tournament with a team-high six RBIs, finishing two hits shy of the Big East record of 13, which was set in five games, one more than he played. In his final eight games, Mende raised his batting average from .280 to .319.
"He has a chance to be a great player," coach Lelo Prado said after Saturday's loss. "He's really played great this week, and he got better as the season went on. He's just a competitor. He competes every day."
ROUGH DAY: Sophomore Jonathan Koscso finished with a team-high 83 hits and 59 runs, and his seven hits in the tournament were second only to Mende, but Saturday was a tough game from start to finish.
Koscso was called out in the first inning when it was ruled he left early while trying to tag up from second on a sacrifice fly by Chris Rey. The unexpected double play helped limit a potential big inning to a single run, but Koscso had chances to redeem himself at the plate.
USF had already scored four run in the fourth to cut an 8-1 deficit to 8-5 when Koscso came up with runners at first and third and one out. Koscso grounded into a double play, however, to end the inning. Again in the eighth, Koscso came up as the tying run with Peter Brotons at third base and two outs, but reliever Dusty Odenbach got him to strike out to end another rally.
DRAFT PICKS?: USF won't be hit hard by graduation at all, with only four seniors -- outfielders Chris Rey and Mike Consolmagno, catcher Trey Manz and first baseman Brandon Smith. The Bulls could lose underclassmen to the baseball draft, as they have in past years with Walter Diaz (2007) and Addison Maruszak (2008).
Juniors -- like right-handers Shawn Sanford and Matt Quevedo and lefty Teddy Kaufman -- are draft-eligible, as are third-year sophomores like outfielder Ryan Lockwood. Sophomore outfielder Junior Carlin, who won the Big East's batting title for conference play, is eligible because he turns 21 next month.
PLUNKED: Not exactly sure how you coach this, but Prado's three seasons at USF have been easily the three best seasons in USF history for getting hit by pitches. Before Prado? The school record was 64 HBPs. In his three seasons? USF has had 99, 116 and 108.