USF hoping bats can do enough to back pitching 

click to enlarge Justin Maffei, a preseason All-West Coast Conference pick, led USF in almost every offensive category last season and will provide a spark atop the lineup. - COURTESY USF ATHLETICS
  • Courtesy USF Athletics
  • Justin Maffei, a preseason All-West Coast Conference pick, led USF in almost every offensive category last season and will provide a spark atop the lineup.

The USF baseball team finds itself with a familiar feeling to start the 2013 season, which kicks off Friday against Cal Poly.

Once again the Dons were not picked to win the West Coast Conference title, which they last claimed in 2011, and once again they will rely on pitching and defense, hoping for enough offense to stay competitive. The Dons finished 29-30 last season, and have higher hopes this season.

Anchoring the rotation will be Abe Bobb, one of two preseason All-WCC players on the Dons’ roster. The junior righty earned two WCC Pitcher of the Week awards and one Player of the Month nod in 2012, and finished the season with a 2.18 ERA to go with an 8-4 record in 14 starts.

Following him in the rotation will be Alex Balog, who coach Nino Giarratano said is expected to emerge from the shadow of his brother, Nik, who hit .302 for the Dons last year. Now, Alex Balog will look to improve on last year’s 4-4 record and 3.43 ERA.

While the pitchers will carry the team on the field, second baseman Jason Mahood will be looked to by Giarratano as the heart and soul of the team.

“He’s what college baseball is all about,” Giarratano said. “Hard working, gritty, loves the game, great leadership, does well everywhere, and that’s what college baseball is about, a guy like Jason Mahood.”

Mahood committed just two errors last season, compiling a .991 fielding percentage to go with his .284 batting average.

Leading off for the Dons will be Justin Maffei, the Dons’ other preseason All-WCC pick, who led the team in almost every offensive category last season, and led the WCC in steals and batting average. Giarratano said he feels fortunate to have Maffei returning to the top of the order for USF.

“We’re glad to have him back,” he said. “Professional baseball could have swooped him up and he decided he wanted to come back to college baseball to finish his degree.”

The Dons were picked to finish fifth in the preseason coaches’ poll, with San Diego expected to come out on top.

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