13 Dec 2021 | 15:33 | Baseball
TAMPA, FEB. 13, 2020 – Third-year head coach Billy Mohl is feeling good about his new-look Bulls after several months of solid preparation.
USF will unveil its impressive mix of young and veteran talent when the program starts the 2020 season with a three-game home series against Marist College. Friday’s opener is set for 7 p.m. at USF Baseball Stadium.
Team vs. WMU (A.19.WMU.TP)”The culture of the team is really good. We’ve got senior leadership, junior leadership,” Mohl said. “We’ve got cohesion on the coaching staff. Everybody is rowing the boat in the same direction right now.”
Coming off an injury-riddled 2019 campaign, USF has its sights set on getting back to the postseason with a much healthier roster that features 16 returning letter winners and 12 promising newcomers.
“I think hungry is an understatement,” said junior catcher Jake Sullivan (Tampa). “We’re ready to go and there’s no better feeling in the world than being prepared. I think this team is as prepared as any team out there.”
That’s definitely a positive for a motivated Bulls squad that will be put to the test right away with five games in five days. Following the series against Marist, USF heads to Tallahassee to take on Florida A&M (Monday, 4 p.m.) and No. 12 Florida State (Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.).
“We’re gonna be able to see a lot of options out of the bullpen,” Mohl said. “It will be a good learning experience for us in terms of what we have heading into the home series against Northeastern the following week (Feb. 22-23).”
Starting Rotation Taking Shape
Mohl is “pretty confident” about his opening weekend rotation. He also has plan for USF’s five-game run after watching his pitchers shine during last weekend’s intrasquad action.
Senior right-hander Collin Sullivan is scheduled to get the ball in the season opener for the second straight year. The Randolph, Mass., native led the Bulls last season in strikeouts (73) and innings pitched (81.2). Sullivan had 11 quality starts of at least five innings in 14 overall starts as a junior.
JasiakFreshman right-hander Jack Jasiak (Spring Hill, Fla.) has been rewarded with a start on Saturday for impressing all preseason. The former F.W. Springstead High School standout is one of six freshmen on USF’s pitching staff, but Jasiak doesn’t act like it.
“He’s more mature than most freshmen,” Mohl said. “His work ethic is much like an upperclassman. His preparation, everything he does, is consistent, it’s thoughtful. He’s got a chance to be a special player for us moving forward.”
Redshirt junior Carson Ragsdale (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) will make his return as a starter Sunday after missing all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. Prior to the setback, the right-hander struck out 24 in 21.1 innings of relief in 2018 and he’s back to his old ways.
Carson Ragsdale vs. Houston”He’s fully recovered. Obviously, the last thing to come back usually with the Tommy John guys is their command,” Mohl said. “Last Sunday, he ended up with eight strikeouts, one walk. I think he gave up two hits in five innings. He looked really good this past weekend.”
Once opening weekend is in the books, Baron Stuart is slated to start at Florida A&M on Monday afternoon. The junior right-hander from Okeechobee, Fla., went 4-3 in 10 starts last season.
“Tuesday’s game at Florida State will be to be determined, based on who we use on the weekend,” Mohl said.
Youth Will Serve Early
Another thing that stood out to Mohl this preseason is USF’s freshman talent and fans will get a good look right away.
DontaeSpeedy Dontae Mitchell is penciled in as USF’s starter in center field for opening night. The St. Petersburg, Fla., product out of Lakewood High School was Perfect Game USA’s preseason AAC Freshman of the Year selection.
“He’s a real exciting player,” Mohl said. “I look forward to seeing what he’s gonna do this year.”
On Mitchell’s right will be another freshman in the outfield.
Daniel Cantu (Jacksonville, Fla.) is scheduled to start in left field on Friday night. The former Creekside High School standout was named Class 7A, Region 4 Player of the Year as a prep senior and St. Johns County Player of the Year as a junior.
Experience and Familiarity on New Coaching Staff
Mohl’s new coaching staff features familiar faces and plenty of winning experience.
Assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Bo Durkac worked with Mohl at Illinois State from 2010-14. Durkac served as head coach of the Redbirds from 2015-18.
“It’s like we haven’t missed a beat,” Mohl said. “He takes a lot of pride in what he does with the development of our hitters.”
Assistant coach Alan Kunkel headed to Tampa after winning a pair of Class 4A state titles in four seasons as head varsity coach of Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“He’s had tons of success at the high school level,” Mohl said. “His ability to relate to these guys and to teach the fundamentals of the game is second to none.”
Volunteer assistant coach Karsten Whitson was a first-round pick by San Diego in 2010 and an 11th-round selection by Boston in 2014. Prior to pro ball, he pitched on two SEC champion/College World Series teams during his Florida career (2010-14). Whitson was an assistant coach at Pensacola State College the past two seasons.
“He had a great career and he’s a really good coach,” Mohl said. “He relates well to our guys and it’s great to have him helping me with the pitching.”
Director of Operations Greg Parris has returned for his 19th season with the program.
Know the Opponent – Marist College
Marist College (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) enters its 11th season under the leadership of head coach Chris Tracz, who once played with Mohl in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Marist posted a 27-26 record in 2019, two seasons after winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship. The Red Foxes made an appearance in the 2017 Gainesville Regional.
Junior right-hander Alex Pansini and sophomore right-hander Erubiel Candelario have been named starters for the first two games of the season-opening series.
Marist received top-25 votes in the USA TODAY preseason coaches’ poll.
Get Your Tickets
Fans can get a great deal by picking up the 2020 Double Play Pass, which includes admission to all USF baseball/softball regular-season home games for only $75.
Purchase the mobile-only pass at USFBullsTix.com or by calling 1-800-Go-Bulls.
About USF Baseball
The University of South Florida baseball program is one of the fastest rising programs in the country. The Bulls earned their third NCAA Regional berth in the last four seasons and had six all-conference selections in 2018. Four players were selected in the 2018 MLB Draft, including the program’s fourth first rounder, pitcher Shane McClanahan. Third baseman David Villar was taken in the 11th round after being named first team all-conference and an All-American. The Bulls reached the NCAA Regionals in 2015 for the first time in 13 years and followed that success with a 42-19 record and second NCAA regional trip in three years in 2017. The Bulls continued the success in head coach Billy Mohl first season in 2018, reaching 36 wins and advancing to the semifinals of the conference tournament for the first time since 2012, while being ranked in multiple polls for the final two months of the season. The USF Baseball program has won five conference titles and the Bulls have made 13 NCAA appearances.