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Bulls Beat: Ramsay makes most of USF baseball chance

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Published:   |   Updated: May 23, 2013 at 10:22 AM
TAMPA -

When University of South Florida junior center fielder James Ramsay trots to his position during this week's Big East Conference baseball tournament at Clearwater, he will give thanks. When Ramsay digs in at the plate, he will be grateful.

He has been superb this season for USF with a team-leading .338 batting average. Tuesday night, he was named first-team All-Big East, the first USF outfielder to secure that honor since 2008 (Ryan Lockwood).

And to think, just a few years ago, many people wondered if Ramsay could play big-time college baseball.

Just before his junior season at Brandon High School, while sliding for a ball, his cleats stuck in the grass and he heard a pop in his knee. Torn ACL. Season over. When he returned as a senior, he wore a huge brace.

“Everybody had questions,'' Ramsay said. “Could I still run the same? Could I still go get the ball (in the outfield)? People stopped calling. I wondered if I had a future.

“Thank God for USF.''

Bulls coach Lelo Prado never wavered. He made it clear Ramsay had a future with the Bulls. Now Prado's faith has been rewarded.

“It was an easy decision,'' Prado said. “He kept battling. He kept working. If he's a good player, a good person, you tend to give him a little extra time and hopefully it turns out well.''

It has.

“He was pretty much the only coach to give me an opportunity and I'm indebted to him for that,'' Ramsay said. “College baseball was always my dream.

“It has been quite a journey. Early on, it was an adjustment because I had never played 56 games in a season before. But I've learned and I've grown.''

That growth has continued through this week. Scouts have noticed. Ramsay should be drafted next month, opening the possibility of professional baseball.

“James is probably the best player I've ever had for a teammate,'' USF outfielder Alex Mendez said. “The sky's the limit for him. All he needs is an opportunity.''

Like the one offered by USF. It paid off for the school – and the player.

Perfect pitch
Ken Eriksen's softball team (45-16) was eliminated Sunday by No. 2 national seed Florida 2-0 at the NCAA regional, preventing the Bulls from chasing a return trip to the Women's College World Series.

With USF's pitching, the World Series again will be a realistic goal for 2014.

The Bulls will miss outgoing senior Lindsey Richardson (12-4, 1.09 ERA), but will return Sara Nevins (26-9, 1.20), Sam Greiner (4-1, 1.85) and Erica Nunn (3-2, 2.58).

“It's not just one person,'' said Nevins, the highest-profile USF pitcher. “It's all of us. And that makes it nice.''

“We have a lot of pieces to the puzzle,'' Greiner said. “I've learned so much and gotten great experience. It's very competitive here, but our pitching depth is very good. I think it makes us confident about our future.''
 
Basketball hire
Men's head basketball coach Stan Heath added Mike Wells as an assistant. Wells joins the Bulls after spending the past two seasons at George Mason. Before getting back into college coaching, Wells spent 17 seasons in the NBA in various roles.

Bulls bits
Junior Austin Reiter is on the 44-person preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation's football center. …The USF Sun Dome is in the running to host next season's men's and women's basketball tournaments for the American Athletic Conference (the rebranded Big East). Memphis is favored to land the men's event, while Connecticut is the likely women's site. ... The Bulls have 18 qualifiers for the NCAA East track and field preliminary rounds, which begin Thursday at North Carolina A&T. For the women, USF is sending Courtney Anderson (high jump); Aireonna Bailey (100, 200 meters); Dariel Jackson (100); Rachael James (400); Yasmin Smith (1,500); Marqueshia Stallworth (triple jump); Natasha Stewart (long jump); Atasha Warren (shot put); Casey Wagner (javelin); and Monique Williams (long jump, triple jump). For the men, USF features Paul Barrett (400 hurdles); Kevin Bell (long jump); Shane Lewis (triple jump); Wyatt Metzger (pole vault); Chase Meyers (high jump); Matthew O'Neal (triple jump); Drew Volz (pole vault); and Neaman Wise (long jump). The top 12 in each event advance to the NCAA outdoor championships in Eugene, Ore., on June 5-8.


jjohnston@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7353

Twitter: @JJohnstonTBO

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