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Junior college lefty commits to USF baseball

With top starters Andrew Barbosa and Derrick Stultz now playing in the Arizona Diamondbacks system, USF baseball coach Lelo Prado has found another arm for his 2013 staff in junior college standout Nolan Thomas, a 6-foot lefthander from Tallahassee Community College.

Thomas, who visited USF last weekend, went 7-2 with a 2.83 ERA, pitching for the first time since his junior year in high school. He struck out 61 batters in 70 innings while walking only 26. He also hit .352 for TCC with four home runs and 27 RBIs, but coach Mike McLeod said his future is likely on the mound.

"He's got a great arm, with an upper-80s fastball and a power breaking ball at 80-81," McLeod said. "Nolan was outstanding in the first 50 innings of the year, and I think (USF coach Chuck Hernandez) will be a huge difference for him."

Thomas originally signed with Mississippi State out of high school, but wound up at Meridian Community College, where he spent one year as a hitter before transferring to TCC. McLeod said he came in as a hitter, but asked about pitching and emerged as the team's ace, with a 1.72 ERA in his first nine starts of the season.

McLeod said he's known Hernandez since they were Yankees farmhands in the late 1970s. The Bulls will have one weekend starter back in 2013 in Joe Lovecchio, with pitchers like junior Nick Gonzalez and freshman Jimmy Herget also in position to challenge for spots in the weekend rotation.

-- Former USF catcher Drew Longley was in Lakeland on Monday to take a physical and expected to sign a contract with the Detroit Tigers. Longley said he's likely to open his pro career close to home, playing for the Tigers' team in the Gulf Coast League. Longley had been USF's starting catcher in each of the last two years and was one of the Bulls' top power hitters last season.

-- Bulls signee Levi Borders, a catcher from Winter Haven who was drafted in the 11th round by the Braves, was expected to start classes at USF on Monday and play for the Bulls next spring, his father Pat said. Borders will also go after a spot on USF's football team as a walk-on quarterback.