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New USF baseball coach Billy Mohl has shown resilience in the face of tragedy

Billy Mohl is introduced as USF's new baseball coach during a news conference at the Sun Dome. He replaces Mark Kingston, who left for South Carolina. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
Billy Mohl is introduced as USF's new baseball coach during a news conference at the Sun Dome. He replaces Mark Kingston, who left for South Carolina. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
Published Jul. 7, 2017

TAMPA — To avoid the searing midday sun, USF officials moved new baseball coach Billy Mohl's introductory news conference Thursday from a terrace of the baseball stadium to the air-conditioned Sun Dome.

Not that Mohl couldn't have withstood the humidity, even in his dark suit complemented by a mint-green tie. At 33, the Sugar Land, Texas, native already has weathered his share of unfavorable conditions — including some storms.

"I've been through a lot in my life," he said.

RELATED: USF promotes Billy Mohl to baseball coach

The autumn before Mohl's dazzling senior season (9-0, 4.03 ERA) as a Tulane right-hander, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, forcing he and the rest of the student body to temporarily relocate. Then in March 2013, his first wife Sarah — whom he met at Tulane— died from a rare type of cervical cancer, leaving Mohl the single dad of a young son.

"He's battled some incredible tragedy in his life," USF athletic director Mark Harlan said. "It's really part of his character and who he is and the way he's showed such incredible resilience in his career."

That resilience partially explains why Harlan moved so quickly to hire Mohl — USF's pitching coach the past three seasons — to replace Mark Kingston, who won 100 games and led USF to a pair of NCAA Tournaments in three years.

RELATED: Baseball coach Mark Kingston leaves USF for South Carolina

Mohl, now remarried with two sons and two stepsons, was gathering some belongings for Kingston from the USF baseball office Friday morning before being called into Harlan's office early that evening. His hiring was announced later that night.

"I think whenever you go into these searches, you're looking for the very best person," Harlan said. "The incredible thing and the really neat thing was that the very best person was down the hall."

One of the most highly respected pitching coaches in the college game, Mohl said he'll retain that title even as Bulls head coach. Seven Bulls pitchers — including three this season — have been drafted on his watch. Last season's staff notched a program-record 620 strikeouts and ranked 10th nationally in team ERA (3.24).

"Let me make this really, really clear: Billy Mohl played a huge part in the success of our baseball program, on the field and in recruiting, over the past three seasons," Harlan said.