Don of Confidence 

Stefan Gartrell has a tough time describing it in words, but he knows it when he sees it.

It is an aura, an attitude his USF baseball teammate Scott Cousins has, and when it appears it means trouble for the opposition.

"It’s hard to explain — it’s this demeanor and confidence he has that, when he’s pitching I have no doubt we’ll win," said Gartrell, the Dons’ cleanup hitter. "And it’s the same thing when he’s batting. Sometimes I look in his face and know he’ll get a hit."

For his part, Dons coach Nino Giarratano describes Cousins as having "the perfect edge" on the field and credits his left-handed pitcher-outfielder as being a major component in the most successful season in USF history. The Dons (38-21) shared the West Coast Conference title for the first time in school history and make their inaugural appearance in the NCAA tournament today at 5 p.m. against powerful Miami (Fla.) in Lincoln, Neb.

Cousins will pitch and bat third for the Dons against the Hurricanes (36-21), who have appeared in a record 34 consecutive NCAA seasons and won four national titles.

"Scott’s the perfect guy to take the ball for us," Giarratano said. "I know he won’t be intimidated by the name on their jersey."

Cousins has put together one of the best two-way seasons in college baseball this year, leading the Dons in batting average (.357), hits (80), slugging percentage (.509), steals (21) and runs scored (51). On the mound, he is 4-2 with a 3.40 ERA, holding opponents to a .266 batting average.

The junior from Reno, Nev., was named an All-American by the College Baseball Foundation and was the WCC Player of the Year.

And he can’t wait to get on that mound in front of 10,000 rabid fans in Lincoln.

"I know they’re Miami, but we’re still going out there to play the game of baseball and both teams will have athletes aged 18 to 22 going out there and playing it," Cousins said. "We’ve got as good a chance as anyone to advance."

If Cousins speaks with the poise of a professional, it’s because he probably will be one very soon. The Major League Baseball draft is Tuesday and Wednesday and the junior was listed as the 147th-best prospect in Baseball America’s pre-draft rankings, putting him as a likely fifth- or sixth-round selection.

If Cousins does enter the professional ranks, the hardest decision awaiting the team that drafts him could be which of his skills to take advantage of. He features an 87 to 91 mph fastball and impeccable control while pitching and a smooth lefty swing at the plate.

One particularly memorable home run this season came at AT&T Park against Cal in the inaugural Dante Benedetti Classic. He fought off several tough pitches in a 10-pitch at-bat before one-hopping a ball into McCovey Cove.

"That was kind of a larger-than-life moment," Giarratano said.

melliser@examiner.com

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