Random notes: Baseball, softball streaking
A weekday without a blog post? Apologies for not getting anything up Thursday -- lots of work getting everything ready for the NCAA tournament selections on Sunday and Monday, so I've been busy with that. Lots of little things I've been meaning to post, so trying to catch up today ...
After struggling out of the gates, USF's baseball and softball teams are both on tears, with baseball winning its last five games after a 3-5 start and softball on a 10-game win streak after opening 9-8.
What's behind baseball's surge? Scoring at least seven runs in each game helps a lot. Ever since the Bulls had two grand slams in one inning to rally past Savannah State on Saturday, they've been scoring runs at a wild pace -- 43 in their last 38 innings.
We told you before the season that USF was moving in the fences at Red McEwen Field to mirror the dimensions of Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the College World Series. It's worked well -- USF had one home run in its first 11 games last season, as opposed to nine in the first 11 this year. Opponents haven't caught on as well, with only three home runs in the first 11, after one last season. Last season's team starts to catch up after the 11th game, but the '08 Bulls are on track for 42 home runs, nearly double the 22 hit last spring.
Softball, too, is finding its bats. We'd thrown up a stat two weeks ago that USF was 1-8 in games in which opponents scored more than one run, which seems like an awful lot of pressure to put on pitching and defense. Well, since then, USF is 5-0 in such games, scoring 14 and seven runs in midweek games against George Mason and Boston Universty this week.
Can't say enough about how much senior Courtney Mosch has done for softball -- she totaled 10 wins last season, ranking fourth on the staff with 83 innings pitched. Not even halfway through the season, she's 12-3, with the staff's lowest ERA at 1.21. Freshman Capri Catalano is 4-0 with 1.23 and junior Cristi Ecks is 2-2 with a 1.63, so the only pitcher that hasn't been up to form is sophomore Kristen Gordon, who led the team in strikeouts and wins last season but is 1-3 with a 4.67 ERA and more walks (16) than strikeouts (10).
Baseball opens conference play today at home against Seton Hall (softball doesn't play a Big East opponent for another two weeks). Only four Big East teams out of 12 have winning records right now, and the Pirates are 6-7. The Bulls took two of three from Seton Hall last spring, so it's a series that can set the tone for USF, to potentially build on the momentum they've gotten in the past week.
-- Football! First, spring practice will start back a day earlier than scheduled, on Monday afternoon, getting back one of the two days rained out last week. I'd mentioned former USF signee Josh Bellamy last week and was able to catch up to him at Butte College in California. He'd signed with USF as a running back but played receiver at Butte, catching nine touchdown passes and scoring on a return as well.
Bellamy went to Butte with a plan to return to USF, and while he keeps in regular contact with Bulls coaches, he said he's hearing from other big programs like Tennessee and Michigan. He has good size at 6-foot-1, 197 pounds and could play any number of positions, even safety. He's running track at Butte as well, doing the 100, 200 and 4-by-100 relay. Another on that relay is his football teammate and friend, defensive back Preston Pace, another St. Pete kid who is drawing interest from USF, Minnesota and Indiana, among others. Bellamy, coming home for spring break this week, said he expected to attend a spring practice at USF. He's a name we'll continue to check on in the next year ...
-- Another new mock first round for next month's NFL Draft, this from NBCsports.com. It has Mike Jenkins going 19th to the Eagles -- can't say I've seen that before. That mock has no defensive backs in the top 12 picks, which would surprise me. Like the Giants taking a running back in the first round ...