Sam Mende / ORACLE FILE PHOTO

Sam Mende / ORACLE FILE PHOTO

USF freshmen standouts Todd Brazeal and Sam Mende were named freshman All Americans by Collegiate Baseball Wednesday night.

Mende started all 59 games at shortstop for USF (35-24), batting .319 and totaling a team-high 17 doubles.

Brazeal played in 58 games at first base for the Bulls, earning third-team All-Big East honors for a .348 batting average and leading the Bulls with 50 RBI.

The Bulls finished second in the Big East and lost in the Big East tournament semifinals in Clearwater in May. Mende, however, finished the season strong, going 11-for-17 in the tournament with three doubles, a home run and six RBI.

Two other Big East players made the freshman list: Notre Dame pitcher Ryan Richter and UConn outfielder George Springer.

Two Big East players made the Collegiate Baseball first-team All-American squad (any class): Notre Dame second baseman Chris Sedon and Louisville third baseman Chris Dominguez.

Brazeal was tough to get a hold of so far, as he’s playing for the Staunton Braves in the Valley Baseball League this summer. The Braves open the season tonight at 7:30 p.m.

However, I got a chance to catch up with Mende this morning. Here’s what transcribed:

KK: What are your thoughts on being named freshman All-American?

Mende: It’s a great award for myself and it will help me out in the future. I’m still upset about how we ended the season, so that award is great — have to thank my coaches — but I’d rather get the title as Big East champion. I’ll take it I guess.

KK: That probably wasn’t the way you wanted to end your season, losing in the Big East semis wasn’t it?

M: It’s the name on the front that matters. Obviously, the All-America is for me but I’d rather have USF as Big East champions, which would have ended things the right way. Getting this award is nice, but I’d rather have a ring.

KK: What’s freshman year been like for you?

M: Quick. It really flew by. It was great playing every game, traveling with the team, but it was there and over. It went really fast and I don’t think I really caught up to it until the end there, which hurt. I could have helped us in the season. I just have to slow it down next year.

KK: What’d learn the most during your first year?

M: Composure. I lose my cool throughout the season really quick because I expect perfection all the time. If that doesn’t happen, I get upset with myself. Coaches kept trying to calm down, and I didn’t realize it until the end.

KK: How about the Big East tournament?

M: It went really well for me. It gave us experience. We have a lot of guys coming back and we have to know what it takes to win in the season, in midweek — in every game.

KK: How much of an influence have coach Lelo Prado and assistant coach Bryant Ward had on you?

M: A lot — Coach Ward and I go way back and are really close. He’s like a shadow. He’s always there. Coach Prado has actually been really loose this year, and kept things pretty fun, giving me crap for my attitude all the time. He kept me loose, which was good because I would have lost it.

KK: What are you doing this summer?

M: I’m working out. I’m a scrawny kid. I’m tall but I have no size.

KK: I wouldn’t say your scrawny man. I’d say I’m the scrawny one. (I’m 5-foot-11 160 pounds)

M: No, I’m pretty thin. That’s what the coaches are yelling for me to do: get big and lifting heavy weights. That’s where I’m focused.

KK: Can the Big East tournament performance help jump start you for next year?

M: It definitely helped. Through the season, I was pretty upset with my play and it was affecting my attitude. Yeah, ending the season like I did will help but I can’t let it control me. I can’t get a big head. I still have to go out and play.

KK: What was the turning point for you?

M: I don’t know what it was. I tell everything it was a SoBe (energy drink). I’ve got some weird stories about those. I went and got one of those and it cleared me up … it started in high school.

-K.K.

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