Sweep gives Bulls confidence boost

Published March 23, 2005

After a lackluster 12-11 start, the Bulls baseball team opened its final Conference USA season with a promising three-game sweep at Charlotte.

"I think it gives us a shot of confidence," said coach Eddie Cardieri, whose team clinched the sweep with four home runs and 20 hits in an 18-8 win Sunday. "We had a great weekend, and to hit the ball the way we did Sunday, that's been our Achilles' heel. Hopefully it gives our hitters confidence."

USF got a strong start Friday from ace Casey Hudspeth (4-1), who gave up two earned runs in seven innings. On Saturday, the Bulls rallied from a 5-0 deficit for a 6-5 win, with relievers Blake Tillett, Ryan Lau and Tim Mattison combining for 41/3 innings of one-hit scoreless relief. Sunday's mercy-rule win was an offensive awakening, with 15 runs in the first four innings.

The Bulls get their first C-USA home series this weekend, with three games against Memphis, starting Friday night. The Tigers (6-10) have the second-worst record in C-USA, so USF could come out of this weekend with its best league start ever.

NEW NUMBERS, NEW FACES: Fans attending the spring football game April 16 at Raymond James Stadium will see several Bulls players wearing new jersey numbers.

A quick overview of the re-numbering: Safety Johnnie Jones switched from No. 27 to No. 6, the same number his nephew Maurice wore as a linebacker at USF, and cornerback Mike Jenkins shifts from No. 2 to No. 4. Quarterback Courtney Denson, who wore No. 18 last season, will wear No. 1, and running back Ricky Ponton, who wore No. 25, will now wear No. 5.

There are many other jersey changes, and the team added eight new walk-ons Tuesday, including former Durant star Ean Randolph, a 5-foot-9 receiver who will sit out this fall after transferring from Webber International University, an NAIA school in Polk County.

"He's a real good athlete," coach Jim Leavitt said. "He'll make the team."

Randolph, who once played running back alongside USF cornerback Trae Williams, was the leading receiver last fall at Webber, catching 50 passes for 713 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bulls have seen considerable turnover in the past year, losing more players from the 2004 fall roster due to attrition (22) than to graduation (21), leaving 73 players on the spring roster. The departed underclassmen include 12 scholarship players; only receiver Joe Bain saw significant playing time.

QUICK IMPACT: Freshman Josh Le'Roy, a Mitchell graduate who had four at-bats entering the weekend, got a start as the leadoff hitter Sunday, going 2-for-5 with two runs scored.

USF has several freshmen playing well: first baseman Brandin Daniel is second on the team with a .306 average, Gaither's Daniel Thomas leads the staff in wins (5) and boasts a 2.33 ERA, right-hander Ty Pryor has two wins in three starts and shortstop Dexter Butler has started all but one game. Tillett, a left-hander who played at Brandon last season, got his first start in Tuesday's game against Kent State.

THIS AND THAT: The Bulls returned to spring football practice on a somber note Tuesday. Dolores Frey, the mother of offensive line coach Greg Frey, died Friday at age 63, and the coaching staff attended her funeral Tuesday morning in Clearwater. ... Sophomore Jerome Springfield is listed as the starter at left tackle this spring, but Leavitt said he'll give a long look this fall at junior college transfer Theodric " Thed" Watson, a Lakewood graduate, with sophomore Walter Walker and redshirt freshman Marc Dile competing at right tackle. ... Fred Huff, associate sports information director and part of the Bulls' sports information department since 1995, resigned. ... The men's tennis team has lost eight straight matches to drop to No. 72 nationally, its lowest ranking in four years. The Bulls host an unranked Indiana State team today, Pacific on Thursday and Air Force on Saturday.

Times staff writer Greg Auman covers USF. Reach him at 813 226-3346 or auman@sptimes.com