The Benedetti diamond is about to heat up again as baseball season begins! The USF Dons had a fierce run last spring and opened with a consecutive three wins against Northern Colorado University. Unfortunately, this streak did not hold, although they did enjoy a series of wins through the season. This spring, the team is back and determined to win the WCC.
At the end of the 2017 season, the Dons shared a handful of wins and losses with a score of 17-8 at the home games and 10-20 at the away games. Perhaps some of their greatest wins were seen following the 2017 season, when three of the Dons baseball players were selected for the MLB draft. Dominic Miroglio was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 20th round as pick 592. Nico Girratiano was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 24th round as pick 726. And, lastly, Allen Smoot was picked up by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 40th round as pick 1189. Although a number of notable Dons baseball players have graduated this past season, the team still has a number of strong players who will surely make this season memorable.
The team is preparing for their preseason with consistent workouts and scrimmages, which have strengthened and challenged their physical and mental skills. The Dons are ready to enter the season with returning players Michael Perri and Ross Puskarich at the lead, who are expected to carry the team as lead infielders for this season. There are also strong, new freshmen players who held excellent high school careers in baseball, such as infielder Jack Winkler and pitcher Haydn King.
The projected starting lineup puts Riley Helland as catcher. He played an impressive season last year as a sophomore and is ready for his third year on the team. Puskarich is expected to play as first baseman, followed by Aaron Ping at second base. Both of these players have played a total of four years for Dons baseball. Winkler is set for third base, with the position for short stop held by Perri. Winkler is one of the younger players, coming from Chatfield High School, while 2018 marks Perri’s fifth year with the Dons. The position for left field will be filled by player Jonathan Allen and right field will be held by Brady Bate. Center field will be played by Tyler Villaroman, a talented player on his second year. There are currently two projected designated hitters, Robert Emery and RJ Cordeiro.
In total, there are 55 scheduled games for the season, with 29 home games. The first game is scheduled for Feb. 16 at the University of Texas, and the first home game is scheduled for Feb. 24 at the Benedetti Diamond. There will be three games that weekend against San Jose State University and Sacramento State. Also, mark your calendars for the weekend of March 8th, when the Dons go head to head with regional winners, Xavier University.
Featured Photo: The 2018 Baseball team pose for a team photo prior to their season start. CHRIS M. LEUNG/USF DONS ATHLETICS