Stuck in the middle of the Conference USA pack, the USF baseball team may have to rely on an at-large bid to get into the NCAA Tournament. Tonight’s game against Stetson will be especially vital in achieving this goal because the Hatters went to the NCAA regionals.
Second in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 26-17 overall record, the Hatters are a formidable team. A victory against Stetson would help the Bulls land an at-large bid if they do not start climbing up the C-USA ladder.
“I think a win would look very good,” Cardieri said. “I told the players, ‘Two out of three against UCF is a feather in our cap.’ If we can get two out of three against Stetson, that would be (another) feather in our cap.”
Cardieri could not be closer to the truth. Beating an in-state rival would definitely help, considering nine teams from the state of Florida made the NCAA Tournament last year. Three of those teams were in the top 20 of Baseball America’s top 25 national rankings Tuesday.
Even though the C-USA season is not over, the Bulls may have to rely on an at-large bid because they are currently fifth in the standings and will be playing No. 4 Houston this weekend, No. 2 TCU next weekend and No. 1 Southern Miss May 9-11.
This is not the first time the Bulls (26-14) have had to rely on an at-large spot. For the past two years, USF has made it to the tournament without winning the conference.
Not only will a victory help the Bulls get an at-large bid, it will help them prepare for their conference series against the Cougars this weekend.
“Stetson, Central Florida, Miami, Florida — those are our midweek games, so they definitely help you because it’s good competition and we are keeping all of the pitchers in tune that way,” Cardieri said.
The Bulls will use a lot of pitchers tonight in order to keep them sharp and ready for the weekend. Cardieri said Tim Mattison will definitely get some time on the mound because he did not get a chance to pitch Sunday in Travis Rios’ complete game. Rios’ one-hitter earned him Conference USA Pitcher of the Week honors.
“Well deserved; he came dang close to throwing a no-hitter,” Cardieri said. “It was a great effort. I am very proud of him, and I am glad he got the Pitcher of the Week. It is very well deserved.”
USF was scheduled to take on the Hatters Feb. 9 at the Stetson Invitational, but the game was rained out, and the Bulls were forced to reschedule the game for May 13. With the rescheduled game, the Bulls play the Hatters a total of three games this season.
Chris Wagenheim covers USF baseball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org