TAMPA — When Billy Mohl became an assistant coach for USF baseball in 2014, a priority was to recruit top talent.
He didn’t have to look very far.
"We’ve got one of the better facilities in the country, unbelievable academic profile, and we’ve got a hotbed of baseball talent within our borders,” Mohl said. "So the key was trying to keep some of these kids at home.”
Seven years later, Mohl is the Bulls head coach and his roster is stacked with talent from Tampa Bay.
"Most of our players, the majority of them are from the Tampa Bay area and they’ve been a huge impact for us.”
A handful of Tampa Bay products have become major contributors.
That includes Lakeland Senior High’s Drew Butcher, Springstead’s Jack Jasiak, Durant’s Jake Sullivan and Alonso’s Nicholas Gonzalez.
"Going out there putting my jersey on was just surreal,” Brutcher said of his first game as a Bull.
Sullivan shared a similar sentiment.
"I was so excited. I was hyped up in the locker room,” he said. "I couldn’t wait because this is my hometown, I’m from Tampa Bay, this is my city and now I get to represent it with the jersey so it’s a great feeling. “
These players range in age and position, but one thing they have in common is their home town.
"To play in my backyard. It’s always been a dream of mine since I was a young kid to be able to play for USF and to get this opportunity is pretty huge,” Gonzalez said.
Their goal is to reach a program first: playing in the College World Series.
"We’ve got unbelievable talent coming in, we’ve got unbelievable talent on this roster, a year from now, two years from now, we could be knocking on that door to Omaha,” Mohl said.
The Bulls are sending a message to their opponents, and hoping up and coming talent takes notice. Talent that’s right in their backyard.
"I think it’s huge. If you can keep the Tampa Bay Area kids here, the goal of this program is to get to Omaha and do it with homegrown kids,” Mohl said. "The talent has always been here, but they haven’t necessarily always chosen USF. We’re starting to turn the tide on that.”
A revamped Bulls program that is showing, there really is no place like home.