TAMPA -- After finishing fourth in the Big East last season, the USF Bulls baseball team stormed to the field ready to improve on those results.
USF conducted batting and fielding drills on Friday to get ready for the season opener against its conference rival, Louisville on Feb 16 at 4 p.m. at Bright House Network Fields in Clearwater.
Last season, USF (38-22) advanced to the Big East championship game for the first time in program history, dropping that game to St. Johns University. Despite the loss, the Bulls exceeded the expectations of many last season, especially in the Big East tournament. USF knocked off top-seeded Louisville and collected four straight wins before reaching the Big East championship game.
Before last season, USF had never won two straight games in the Big East tournament.
In 2012, the Bulls struggled throughout the season to generate offense. USF finished last in the conference in hitting, registering a .255 batting average. USF finished ninth in total runs scored.
Although the offensive game looks like it may be similar to last season’s, USF Coach Lelo Prado promises an improved game on offense.
The Bulls do boast the return of junior James Ramsays’ bat. Ramsay led USF with a .328 average last season and is this years starting center fielder. He brings experience to the table, playing 60 games with the Bulls in 2012. Ramsay had two home runs last season along with 32 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.
"He's got that talent to be one of the best players in America. I think he's made strides every year," Prado said.
Another returning player is senior Jimmy Falla, who was instrumental in USF’s performance in the Big East tournament and title game. Falla, albeit inconsistent during the regular season, led the Bulls with a .375 average in the Big East tournament and hit three home runs, helping the Bulls advance to the conference title game.
Senior Alex Mendez is another weapon for USF, as he returns to the lineup for the 2013 season. Mendez hit .286 last season and led the Bulls in six hitting categories from the leadoff spot.
"A kid like Alex Mendez is what every coach wants on his team," Prado said. "He does everything right off the field. He gives you everything he has on the field and he's a pretty good baseball player."