Mark Reed would like to throw a fastball that would intimidate hitters, force his catcher to shake the sting from his hand, and leave scouts gawking at their radar guns.
It isn't going to happen.
"I'm not going to lie to you and say that I don't wish I had a 90-mph fastball," said Reed, a University of South Florida senior right-hander. "I do."
But a lack of speed hasn't slowed him down.
Relying on moxie instead of mph, Reed has pitched the only perfect game in USF history, owns the school records for appearances (43) and innings pitched (291) and is only three wins shy of breaking Jerry Comellas' win total (22).
"Mark's the epitome of a NCAA student-athlete," said USF coach Eddie Cardieri, whose pitching-rich Bulls open the season Thursday at 3 p.m. against visiting Bethune-Cookman College. "He's coming off his second straight 4.0 semester, and when it comes to pitching he just has an awful lot of guts and tenacity."
Reed was a GTE District III academic all-American last year, has the team's highest grade-point average (3.65) and is scheduled to graduate with his class in May with a degree in accounting.
"He's a smart pitcher and is very competitive," said Jeff Edmonds, the coach last year at North Carolina-Charlotte _ the team Reed befuddled on May 9 for his perfect game.
"I would call him a crafty guy with good savvy on the mound," Florida coach Joe Arnold said.
Last year, Marc Valdes outdueled Reed in a 2-1 Gators win. Florida had six hits in nine innings off Reed, while the Bulls mustered just four hits in nine innings off Valdes. USF also committed three errors, which led to one unearned run.
"He doesn't work the middle of the plate," Arnold continued. "He allows the hitters to make mistakes. Reed gives good-hitting teams fits. He's a smart pitcher."
Adjectives like "smart" and "crafty" are apropos. Without the blazing fastball, Reed must study opposing hitters to evaluate their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. That's why he seldom starts a series and instead charts the first game for fellow senior David Hutcheson.
"Hutch has the stuff where he can make a mistake and get away with it, but I don't," said Reed, who throws about an 80-mph fastball. "Keeping a chart let's me go out with a game plan and that helps me."
"No one pitches to a scouting report better than Mark Reed," USF pitching coach Mike Trapasso said. "He doesn't have the tools that make the scouts foam at the mouth, but we know he's going to keep us in the game for seven innings and that's what makes him such a hot commodity for us."
But knowing where to throw it and then hitting those spots with curves and change-ups aren't enough for the finesse pitcher, Trapasso said. That type of pitcher, he said, must have something else to succeed.
"And Mark Reed has heart," he said.
Consider these examples:
As a senior at Armwood in 1989, Reed allowed just five hits and struck out 12 batters through 5 innings in a 9-3 win against Brandon in the Class 4A, District 5 championship game. Remarkably, he had just been released from the hospital after suffering from encephalitis.
With the Bulls needing a win at Western Kentucky to qualify for the Sun Belt Conference tournament and have a shot at the NCAA tournament the next year, Reed threw a four-hitter in an 8-1 win. USF went on to win the conference and made a second-straight trip to the NCAA Atlantic Regional.
Last year was his perfect game against North Carolina-Charlotte, fighting back from a 3-0 count to strike out junior rightfielder Cameron Browder to end the game.
"He's not overpowering at all, but in that game he kept everything low and mixed up his pitches well," said Browder, who hit .324 last year and won the first game of a doubleheader that day with a two-run homer in the 11th. "When he throws strikes consistently, he's definitely one of the better pitchers in the conference."
Interestingly, each of those high points was followed by a painful low point:
After beating Brandon, he allowed a first-inning three-run homer to Sarasota's Greg Blosser as Armwood lost 3-1 to USA Today's top-ranked team in the sectional.
In the 1990 NCAA tournament against Miami, he gave up five hits and two runs in four innings. He didn't lose the game, but the Bulls lost 5-2, which eliminated them from the post-season. They haven't been back since.
Last year, he faced UNCC in the Metro Conference tournament five days after the perfect game and allowed 12 hits and nine runs in 5 innings. USF's season ended rudely with a 14-6 loss.
"The perfect game was the best feeling I had in my life," Reed said. "The funny thing is, I didn't have a curveball that game. (In the conference tournament) I had a lot better stuff and just got shelled. But that's baseball."
But each experience _ the good, the bad and the unlucky _ has further motivated him.
"We've had two off years, and when I sit back and wonder why and look for the common denominator, I know I'm part of it," Reed said. "I can't just blame everybody else for having bad years. I have to look at myself and ask what I can do."
What he did was work out earlier and harder than usual this fall. He started throwing before Christmas and began working in the bullpen early last month.
"I've had good years, but I want to have my best year ever," said Reed, who is 20-17 overall with a 4.45 earned-run average. "I want this team to go a long way."
USF baseball at a glance
Coach: Eddie Cardieri (326-203, 10th year).
Assistant coaches: Mike Trapasso, Ron Cardieri, Vito Anello.
1992 record: 27-31 overall, 7-11 in Metro Conference (7th).
Key losses: Wade Norris, 1B; Tim Merrick, OF; Paul Roberts, 2B; Danny Montero, RHP.
Top returners: David Hutcheson, RHP (5-4, 3.67 ERA); Mark Reed, RHP (6-8, 4.45 ERA, 2 complete games); Andrew McCormack, LHP (2-4,3.57 ERA); Doug Carroll, OF (.305, 33 RBI, 36 runs); Darren Stumberger, 1B/3B (.291, 16 RBI); Blake Byers, C/DH (.280, 42 RBI); Brett King, SS (.262, 24 RBI, 41 RBI, 20-of-24 steals).
Key newcomers: Bob Ribinski, C; Andy Neff, OF; Ryan Mason, 3B/C; Jim Felch, DH/OF; Don Nestor, RHP; Adam Danner, RHP; Eric Garcia, LHP.
Outlook: The Bulls' strength will be pitching, with Hutcheson, Reed, McCormack and Don Nestor, a junior college transfer who Cardieri said is a closer in the mold of Bob Undorf. The question mark will be offense. Carroll, Stumberger and King are solid hitters, but the team lacks the home run threat _ USF hit only 32 last year and 18 were by Norris. "There are several guys we have to get that (power) out of," Cardieri said. If the hitting comes around, the Bulls could challenge for the Metro Conference title and the automatic to the NCAAs.
Player Pos. B/T Cl. Hometown (high school/jc)
David Blank P R/L So. Andover, Mass. (Andover)
Rich Bruney OF L/R So. Tampa (Chamberlain)
Blake Byers C/DH S/R Jr. Daytona Beach (Seabreeze)
Doug Carroll OF L/R So. Holliston, Mass. (Holliston)
Chad Crossley P R/R Jr. Seffner (Armwood)
Adam Danner P R/R Fr. Tampa (King)
Jim Felch OF/DH R/R Jr. Venice (SPJC)
Eric Garcia P L/L Fr. Tampa (Hillsborough)
Jason Garcia 2B/SS R/R Jr. Tampa (Plant)
Jay Hatfield C R/R Sr. Tallahassee (North Florida JC)
Chris Heintz SS/3B R/R Fr. Clearwater (Countryside)
David Hutcheson P R/R Sr. Tampa (Chamberlain)
Brett King SS R/R Jr. Apopka (Apopka)
Ryan Mason 3B R/R Fr. Tampa (Chamberlain)
Andrew McCormack P L/L Sr. Raynham, Mass. (Bridgewater)
Jason Michonski 2B S/R Fr. Barnstable, Mass. (Barnstable)
Andy Neff OF R/L Jr. Stuart (Santa Fe CC)
Don Nestor P R/R Jr. Orlando (Miami Dade-South)
Chris Northup OF R/R Sr. Valrico (Armwood)
Fred Rath P R/R So. Tampa (Jefferson)
Mark Reed P R/R Sr. Seffner (Armwood)
Bob Ribinski C R/R Fr. Naples (Barron Collier)
Eddie Rocha P R/R Jr. Tampa (South Florida CC)
J.R. Spahr OF R/R So. St. Petersburg (Northeast)
Darren Stumberger 1B/3B R/R Jr. Boca Raton (Miami Dade-South)
Mark Whiteside P L/L Sr. Tampa (South Ga. CC)
11 _ Bethune-Cookman, 3 p.m. 13 _ Stetson, 1 p.m. 14 _ Stetson, 1 p.m. 19 _ at Stetson, 7 p.m. 20 _ at Stetson, 1 p.m. 23 _ Florida, 3 p.m. 25 _ Dayton, 7 p.m. 26 _ Dayton, 3 p.m. 27 _ Florida A&M, 1 p.m. 28 _ Florida A&M, 1 p.m.
3 _ Bethune-Cookman, 3 p.m. 5 _ Florida International, 7 p.m. 6 _ Florida International, 1 p.m. 9 _ Southeast Missouri State, 7 p.m. 10 _ Southeast Missouri State, 7 p.m. 11 _ Butler, 7 p.m. 13 _ Siena, 7 p.m. 14 _ Siena, 1 p.m. 16 _ Lafayette, 7 p.m. 17 _ Lafayette, 7 p.m. 19 _ Alabama-Birmingham, 7 p.m. 20 _ Alabama-Birmingham, 1 p.m. 21 _ at Florida, 1:30 p.m. 23 _ Toledo, 7 p.m. 24 _ Toledo, 7 p.m. 26 _ Ohio State, 7 p.m. 27 _ Ohio State, 1 p.m. 28 _ Cleveland State, 1 p.m. 30 _ Alabama, 7 p.m. 31 _ Alabama, 7 p.m.
2 _ North Carolina Charlotte, 7 p.m. 3 _ North Carolina Charlotte, 1 p.m. 4 _ North Carolina Charlotte, 1 p.m. 6 _ at Jacksonville, 7 p.m. 7 _ Jacksonville, 7 p.m. 9 _ Southern Mississippi, 7 p.m. 10 _ Southern Mississippi, 1 p.m. 11 _ Southern Mississippi, 1 p.m.14 _ at Central Florida, 7 p.m. 16 _ at Louisville, 3 p.m. 17 _ at Louisville, 1 p.m. 18 _ at Louisville, 1 p.m. 21 _ at Central Florida, 7 p.m. 23 _ at Tulane, 7:30 p.m. 24 _ at Tulane, 3 p.m. 25 _ at Tulane, 3 p.m.
1 _ Central Florida, 7 p.m. 2 _ Central Florida, 1 p.m. 7 _ at Virginia Tech, 3 p.m. 8 _ at Virginia Tech, 2 p.m. 9 _ at Virginia Tech, noon. 11 _ at Miami, 7:30 p.m. 12 _ at Miami, 7:30 p.m. 14 _ Virginia Commonwealth, 7 p.m. 15 _ Virginia Commonwealth, 1 p.m. 16 _ Virginia Commonwealth, 1 p.m. 19-23 at Metro Conference tournament.