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This Week In Baseball: Same You-Know-What, Different Year For USF

USF gets bombed by Florida Gulf Coast, then loses a weekend series to a weak Georgetown team. Where have we seen this before? Other than the last four or five years, of course.


Well, we've reached the point in the season where it's become clear that this season's USF baseball team isn't any different than the other ones that Lelo Prado has rolled out in his seven years of wasting a great situation in Tampa. They have some talented pieces (hello, Jimmy Herget), but there's no offensive power, they don't have a deep enough pitching staff, and they look outclassed against any above-average competition.

More on all that later, but let's run down the week's results first. USF spent another Tuesday night getting smashed by an in-state opponent. This time it was Florida Gulf Coast* by the count of 13-5. The Bulls actually led this game 3-0 after three innings, but sprung a leak in the fifth and gave up an 8-spot to the Eagles. Six of those runs came with two outs, on a collection of base hits and walks and wild pitches. USF really bungled the ninth inning with three errors, but the game was already out of reach by then.

* - I've decided to retire the name "Fort Myers campus" for FGCU. They earned it.

After that, USF left the state for the first time all season and headed up to Georgetown for an early weekend series. Thursday's game was a legitimate bummer. Herget pitched eight shutout innings for USF, allowing just three hits and two walks. But the Bulls couldn't score either, and the two teams kept each other off the scoreboard until the 13th inning. In the bottom of the 13th, the Hoyas put two runners on with two outs. Nolan Thomas, the seventh USF pitcher, then walked Curtiss Pomeroy, and then Thomas threw a wild pitch to Danny Poplawski (after he had already thrown one to Pomeroy) and Evan Ryan scored the game-winner. That pitching staff should have seen a better fate on Thursday, and Janick Serrallonga ended up with a loss he really didn't deserve.

The Bulls evened the series with a wacky 10-6 win on Friday. USF seemed to have the game in hand with a 5-1 lead in the eighth inning. But the Hoyas struck for four runs in the bottom of the 8th to tie the game. USF regained the lead in the 9th, then lost it again to send the game to extra innings tied at 6. Finally the Bulls got four more runs in the 10th. Zac Gilcrease drove in the go-ahead run, and Alex Mendez added some insurance with a two-run single. Lawrence Pardo brought an end to the chaos with a scoreless 10th.

Then on Saturday, all the issues that had popped up in the previous two games reared their ugly collective head as the Hoyas won 7-2. Matt Hollenbeck threw 5 2/3 hitless innings for Georgetown before Jimmy Falla doubled to left-center. USF managed just three hits in the game. Meanwhile, the Hoyas pushed across four runs in the 4th inning to power their victory, thanks to four hits, an error, two consecutive wild pitches, and a hit batter. (Just in case you thought that was a fluke, the Bulls threw another wild pitch in the next inning and then hit two straight batters.)

Why is USF losing series to teams in the 200s in the Division I RPI? For that matter, why are they at #181? Why are they the 10th best team in Florida again? Why does one of Ken Eriksen's softball players have as many home runs this season as USF's entire baseball team? Why has it been over a decade since this team reached the NCAA Tournament, with no sign of that changing this year? Why did Eddie Cardieri get sent packing four years after his last NCAA appearance, with appalling facilities, while Lelo is on year seven with equally mediocre results, an easier conference to play in, and a modern stadium? Why is it apparently so hard for USF to put together a contending baseball team in a state that has prep talent everywhere you look?

I know I ask these questions every year, but it's only because no one ever answers them. They just pass the buck for another three years and pretend no one notices. Ignoring solvable problems is a textbook example of not being the best athletic department in the Big East. Of course, you already figured out that that was just an empty slogan, right?