Last week, USF baseball coach Lelo Prado and the school announced a joint decision that he would be reassigned to an administrative position after the season.
For Brandon Lawson, a freshman pitcher for the Bulls after graduating from Hernando High a year ago, it’s just another twist along a tumultuous first season with USF.
“It was kind of a shocker,” Lawson said. “I don’t know what to expect. Hopefully we’ll know soon and get everything back on track and see what happens from there.”
Following the Bulls’ third and final game of the American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship Saturday against Memphis, the right-handed hurler had appeared in 16 games (nine starts), with a 3-1 record and 3.74 earned run average.
Lawson began the season as a full-time starter, but was sidelined for three weeks by bicep tendonitis.
He had a rough return start against Florida International on March 25, permitting six runs (two earned) in one inning, and has since served as a middle reliever and “Tuesday” starter.
“It feels good now,” Lawson said of his arm “It’s just a matter of getting used to throwing a lot more than I’m used to. Before, I was throwing once a week, not 3-4 times a week.
“Definitely it’s frustrating. I wanted to come in here and play a key role in the team’s success. I never had an injury like that. To sit for three weeks and not be a part of it was definitely hard.”
That’s not the first bit of adversity Lawson has faced since joining USF. The day after he signed, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, who played a huge part in Lawson’s recruitment, left for a job with the Miami Marlins.
Then came the Prado decision, part of a disappointing campaign that had the Bulls sitting at 27-31 after Saturday’s action.
“Starting off the season, things were going good. We started off 7-0 and then I don’t know what happened,” Lawson said. “Things are a little shaky here. I don’t know if the team is having problems or not.
“I felt I’ve pitched pretty good, but there’s always something to work on. In college everyone sees 86-90 (miles per hour). It’s common here. You’ve got to hit your spots. I’ve got to be a location pitcher until my velocity gets there, hopefully.”
Lawson noted that he must improve on getting the ball down and putting hitters away. After striking out a combined 226 batters against 29 walks over his final two prep seasons, Lawson has 27 strikeouts versus 17 walks in 53 innings this year.
He did finish strong, starting Saturday and throwing six innings, allowing one run on five hits and no walks while striking out three. He ended up with a no-decision in an eventual 2-1 loss.
Though he won’t play summer ball, he’ll spend the offseason trying to fine tune his craft.
“My big brother is a college baseball coach, so he’ll help me with mechanics, developing a breaking ball I can throw for strikes and get it down when I need to,” Lawson said. “Hopefully I’ll get stronger and pick up some velocity. I want to get stronger and have an important role for this team.”
Academically, Lawson will already be a junior next school year. He’s majoring in criminology, with an interest in law enforcement.
Despite the ups and downs on the diamond, Lawson appears at ease with his choice of college.
“I’ve enjoyed USF a lot. The school is great. The coaches are great,” Lawson said. “The facilities are great. It’s a top-notch place. I’ve had a lot of fun here.”
By the numbers: Brandon Lawson
GP GS CG IP H R ER BB K W L ERA
16 9 0 53.0 62 30 22 17 27 3 1 3.74