USF baseball looks to follow in the footsteps of basketball and football

USF players stand in line during the national anthem.

By Jorden Pompey Sports Beat Reporter

The University of South Florida Bulls are looking for redemption after being voted fifth in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) pre-season rankings. The Bulls also have three pre-season AAC selections. 

East Carolina University received the top of the AAC preseason rankings, although, USF received one first-place vote. 

It has been three years since the Bulls made it to the College World Series losing in the Super Regional round to getting swept by Texas in 2021.

Last season, USF ended its campaign last in the AAC standings. Throughout the AAC Tournament, the Bulls pulled off two upsets by defeating the East Carolina Pirates in the first round and the University of Central Florida Knights in the second round.

Senior Hunter Mink throws a pitch to a University of Connecticut batter.

In the semifinals, the Bulls and Pirates met again, and the Pirates swept the Bulls.

“It definitely wasn’t enjoyable to lose a lot last year and we’re looking to clean that up,” junior utility player Bobby Boser said.

Boser one of the five Bulls to make the preseason All-Conference team led the team in multiple statistical categories such as on-base percentage, triples, home runs and slugging percentage. Boser was also within the top 10 of those categories.

“Bobby Bombs, Bobby Boser, he’s Bobby Ball Player to me. He’s a great player, he brings 100% effort every single day he’s out there, he’s a perfect representation of what this program is in terms of blue-collar,” head coach Billy Mohl said. 

Mohl aims to get back to the status the Bulls had in 2021. Mohl has the 2024 schedule set up for success to become a contender in the College World Series. 

USF’s second game of the season against he University of Louisville was canceled due to inclement weather.

“We want a competitive schedule. We want a competitive chance to get to the tournament without having to win a conference tournament in terms of RPI,” Mohl said. 

Senior infielder John Montes slides into third base.

The AAC has made new additions to its conference after Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston departed to join the Big 12.  Newcomers Charlotte, Rice, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Alabama-Birmingham and University Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) join after leaving Conference USA.

Teams like UTSA, Rice and FAU who have made big runs into the postseason have added competitiveness to the AAC. 

“It’s only a matter of time before they get it going again, but it’s really good baseball,” Mohl said.

Mohl is also bringing back associate head coach Alan Kunkel and assistant coach Chris Cates to the staff to bring back the winning culture. 

Kunkel was a part of the 2021 staff that made it to the Super Regional round. 

In addition to being the head coach, Mohl is taking over as the pitching coach – a position which Mohl served in for three seasons from 2015 to 2017.

“What coach Mohl always tells you is to throw strikes — good strikes — and that’s the biggest thing for success in college baseball,” junior pitcher Jack Cebert said.

Another Preseason All-AAC selection in sophomore infielder Eric Snow has made Mohl hopeful to have a stellar defense from Snow and Boser this season.

Snow led the team in assisted outs with 145 and cumulated 20 double plays last season. 

A winning atmosphere calls for a change in looks as well. The baseball stadium at Red McEwen Field has received a new paint job and has pictures of past USF players along the concourse to pay homage.

With the success that the football, track and field and men’s and women’s basketball programs, Mohl looks forward to following in those footsteps this season with the new looks of the team and stadium. 

“When I walked into the Yuengling Center, for the first time I saw that the whole student section was full, that was incredible. What they’re doing right now it’s a lot of fun,” Mohl said after he watched the first half of the men’s basketball game against FAU.

Men’s basketball head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim has shown his support to the other USF sports during his tenure and has encouraged students to witness what is to come during the new baseball season. 

It seems that USF athletics are figuring things out at the right time and at the same time. As the basketball season winds down, all eyes will be locked in on the baseball, softball and track field teams.

The Bulls currently sit third in the AAC behind UTSA and East Carolina, 6-3 in conference play and 19-13 overall.