I didn't write a gamer after USF lost their final game in Clearwater to Memphis as I had so many thoughts in my head about the season that I needed to flesh out first. But the overriding one is that USF should be a much better baseball team next year. And that's because they should have more depth in the field and on the mound, which is what wins in college baseball.
We knew that the team lost key pieces of their Top 10 recruiting class in freshmen pitchers Shane McClanahan and Matt Sellers to Tommy John before the season even started, as well as JC transfer Peter Strzelecki. Those are three arms which could help with depth, which is what the paper-thin 2016 Bulls needed desperately.
Even if USF had beaten Memphis to advance in the conference tournament, who was going to pitch the next day? Lawson, Tommy Eveld, and Joe Cavallaro had all been spent. Phoenix Sanders was sent to closer duty. When Michael Clarkson (53.2 IP, 4.86 ERA) was in trouble in the eighth inning, so USF got two arms up in the bullpen: Mark Savarese (10.1 IP, 7.84 ERA), and Garrett Bye (8 IP, 15.75 ERA).
On the bright side it looks like junior Brandon Lawson took a nice leap forward this year, and though he's a junior and thus MLB Draft eligible I'd expect he'll return. Tommy Eveld had a lot of scouts in the stands for his start against UConn in Clearwater, but he also technically could return despite having already graduated. His brother and former USF QB Bobby is already in the Blue Jays organization.
The Bulls also need some of their young bats to step up as consistent everyday players in 2017. A teamwide .248/.333/.355 slash line just isn't enough offense. Kevin Merrell (.320/.401/.418, 16-17 SB's) is a special player at the top of the lineup, and you would assume Levi Borders would be everyday catcher next season. There are also signs of serious talent in freshman Joe Genord, who led the team in slugging at .428 and is probably penciled in as the first baseman on Opening Day. But there might not be another spot in the field assured for anyone next year. Luke Maglich graduates, and no other Bull was so good that you'd lock them up a position.
Head Coach Mark Kingston did a nice job this season with a team that just didn't have the horses. And in college baseball, the ability to hit one through nine is what separates mediocre teams from very good ones. But the effort was good basically all year long, and you can't question how hard they're trying. You could hear the pain in Kingston's voice after losses, and he appears to take losing about as hard as any coach in any sport I've seen at USF. The agony of things like a Tuesday night loss while they were well out of NCAA contention truly wore on him.
But another year older, healthier, and wiser should lead to a dramatic improvement on 24-33 overall, and 8-16 in the American Conference.