Our recent story on Bulls C Levi Borders' painful two-year medical odyssey seemed to resonate among the current players, who remain inspired by the talent Borders brandished early in his career, not to mention his current tenacity.
Among them: the guy who ultimately replaced Borders behind the plate on a full-time basis.
"I don't think I could ever be as great as him," junior Tyler Dietrich said.
But he just might be as durable.
Three years after Borders started all 61 games at catcher for a Bulls team that reached the NCAA Tournament, Dietrich has darn near duplicated the feat. He enters this weekend's NCAA regional in DeLand having started 55 of USF's 56 games at catcher.
In the one contest he didn't start (the season's second game against North Carolina), he caught the final three innings after starter Joe Genord took a pitch to the arm during an at-bat.
For those scoring at home, Dietrich (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) has caught 487.1 of USF's 493.1 innings this season. Yet no stretch was more significant than last week's American Athletic Conference tournament, when the Naples Barron Collier alumnus caught five games in a 52-hour span.
"His performance last week was heroic," Bulls coach Billy Mohl said.
Not to mention efficient. Armed with a milk-jug gallon of water to remain hydrated, Dietrich went 5-for-17 (.294) with four runs and four RBIs, committed no errors and threw out three would-be base stealers. He was among three Bulls named to the all-tournament team.
Three of those hits came in Thursday's doubleheader sweep of Wichita State and Connecticut, when Dietrich worked all 16 innings with less than a one-hour rest between games.
"The biggest thing, I was just mentally tired because you have to be locked in for so long," he said. "Physically I felt all right. … I was (mentally) exhausted from relaying the pitches, being locked in every pitch."
He enters Friday's NCAA Tournament opener against Oklahoma State with a full week's rest. By the Bulls' second game Saturday (against Hartford or Stetson), Dietrich will have eclipsed 500 innings played this season.
"Sometimes working out can be a pain," he said. "But I truly believe that all the preparation we did in the fall and spring really helps."
Friday: No. 3 Oklahoma State (29-24-1) vs. No. 2 USF (35-20-1), 1 p.m. (ESPN3); No. 1 Stetson (45-11) vs. No. 4 Hartford (26-29), 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Saturday: Elimination game, 1 p.m.; Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 7 p.m.
Sunday: Games at 1 and 7 p.m.
Monday (if necessary): Game 7, 1 p.m.