Sunday, May 27, 2018
Sports

USF Bulls set for new baseball season

TAMPA — USF baseball coach Lelo Prado has settled into a new ballpark, and he has a solid core of returning veterans and just enough impact newcomers to have optimism as the Bulls seek their first trip to the NCAA regionals since 2002.

"Pitching-wise, I feel good at how much strides they've made, and offensively, I think we'll be a better club, and that's good, because we've struggled to score runs," said Prado, whose team went 38-22 last spring and reached the Big East championship game. "I think we'll score some now."

Prado knew going into preseason practice that his top two pitchers would be senior RHP Joe Lovecchio and junior LHP Nick Gonzalez, and there's a battle for the No. 3 job to close out the weekend rotation among junior college transfer Nolan Thomas, freshman Justin Patrick of Rhode Island and sophomore Michael Clarkson (Dunedin).

"We feel good about those guys," said Prado, who said another junior college transfer, 6-foot-7 RHP Alex Vetter, will compete for starts as well once he's healthy.

Prado has loads of returning bats and has high expectations for newcomers such as freshman Levi Borders, the son of former major-leaguer Pat, who will see work at catcher, third and DH.

The Bulls open the season with seven tough games before they get a home game: Louisville, Purdue and Indiana in Clearwater this weekend, then a three-game series at Florida State and one at Central Florida before the home opener March 1 against Toledo.

"I love it. I think this group needs to get tested early to see where we're at," Prado said. "I always like facing tougher competition. I've told you a thousand times, I could schedule 45 wins every year, but it doesn't do any good. We've got to get to the point where we're competing against some of these guys."

WELL-DESERVED: Jessica Dickson, already enshrined in USF's Athletics Hall of Fame as the Bulls' all-time leading scorer, will have her No. 25 jersey retired Saturday before the women's basketball game against Seton Hall.

RECRUITING HONORS: USF football assistants Larry Scott and Ray Woodie, who handled much of the recruiting duties as Willie Taggart assembled a new staff, have been honored for their work in USF's 2013 recruiting class.

Scott, a former Bulls lineman now working under his third USF head coach, was recognized as one of the nation's top 50 recruiters by 247sports.com, continuing his success in the Miami area with four-star CB Lamar Robbins and RB Darius Tice. Scott and Woodie had at least some role in nearly every recruit who signed with the Bulls, having done much of the recruiting and evaluation until Taggart was able to bring in more assistants.

Woodie, who followed Taggart from Western Kentucky, was honored among the Big East's top recruiters by Rivals.com. The site gives him credit for securing eight of USF's 23 commitments. He was instrumental in the Bulls luring Bradenton Manatee DT Derrick Calloway out of a previous commitment to Louisville.

THIS AND THAT: Rick Stumpf, who has worked in USF's compliance department since 2006, will become associate athletic director for compliance at Delaware. … USF could make a late addition to its football recruiting class in Lake Gibson's Kennard Swanson, rated as the nation's No. 2 fullback by two national recruiting sites. Swanson was previously committed to LSU and Florida before academic issues, but his coach at Lake Gibson said he has a good chance to qualify academically. He visited USF on Monday.

Comments
Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

ST. PETERSBURG — If you think the Rays are holding their pitching staff together with baling wire, duct tape and an overbooked shuttle to Triple-A Durham, a bigger story might be how their bats keep producing runs no matter who is swinging them...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
For starters: Rays RHP Sergio Romo opens the game for the second time in 48 hours vs. Orioles

For starters: Rays RHP Sergio Romo opens the game for the second time in 48 hours vs. Orioles

ST. PETERSBURG – Speaking of openers, the Rays will start RHP Sergio Romo (1-1, 4.66 ERA) for the fourth time this season, the second time in 48 hours vs. the Orioles. The 35-year-old Romo did not make it out of the first inning Friday, allowin...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have had to get creative in how they start games. Now, after Friday's trade of closer Alex Colome, they might have to get creative in how they finish them.How they handle the ninth inning going forward will be a fluid ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

What in the name of the 0-26 Bucs is going on here?The breathtaking Vegas Golden Knights are the greatest expansion team in professional sports history. They are the best (or worst) thing to ever happen to our games, having won 51 times during the re...
Published: 05/26/18
Updated: 05/27/18
Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

THE BASEBALL LABORATORY IN ST. PETERSBURG — Up is down. Down is up. Hello is goodbye. Goodbye is hello. A reliever is a starter. A starter is a reliever.These are your 2018 Tampa Bay Rays.You never know what's going to happen. And just when you...
Published: 05/26/18
Updated: 05/27/18
Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who was trying to resurrect his career with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, said Saturday that he is retiring from football.Freeman, 30, was a first-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2009 and was their starting ...
Published: 05/26/18
Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Interesting decision by the Rays to start RH reliever Ryne Stanek on Saturday. The Orioles' Nos. 1 through 5 hitters were righties, and Stanek came in allowing a 1.228 OPS against righties and a .592 OPS against lefties. It ended up working.How ...
Published: 05/26/18
RAYSREPORT

RAYSREPORT

Today: vs. Orioles1:10, Tropicana FieldTV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)Tickets: $15-$275; available at Tropicana Field, raysbaseball.com, surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of gamePromotion: Raymond children’s book for kids 14 ...
Published: 05/26/18
Rays Tales: What the trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span leads to next

Rays Tales: What the trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span leads to next

The reality of Friday's surprising trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span to Seattle is, of course, between the extremes.One side is screaming this is the latest proof the Rays are driven more to pocket money than winning games (and, for the loudest, o...
Published: 05/26/18

For starters: Rays vs. Orioles; Ryne Stanek makes first start, Carlos Gomez returns

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' bullpenning experiment continues, with right-hander Ryne Stanek to open this afternoon's game against the Orioles at Tropicana Field. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10.It is the first career start for Stanek, who has ...
Published: 05/26/18