BASEBALL GAME TIME
Northwestern (0-0) at USF (0-0)
When: Tonight, 7; Sat., 1 p.m.; Sun., Noon.
Where: Red McEwen Field
Projected starters: Friday: RHP Casey Hudspeth,RHP George Kontos. Saturday: RHP Daniel Thomas, LHP Dan Brauer. Sunday: LHP Nick Manganaro, RHP Ryan Myers.
The story: To open the season, the Bulls (33-31 in 2005) host one of the 10 baseball teams in the 11-school Big 10 conference. With coach Eddie Cardieri entering his 21st season at the helm, USF last played a Big 10 team when it traveled to Champaign, Ill., in 2004.
Hudspeth, who is four career wins away from earning 20 in three years, returns from an 8-6 year with a 3.97 ERA. The junior looks to make the start Friday against a Northwestern team that had a .302 batting average last season.
The Bulls will field a lineup that returns four players who had a .250 batting average or higher including senior Kris Howell, who will most likely fill in at designated hitter due to the hand injury senior Matt McHargue suffered in a intrasquad game, leaving him out for four to six weeks.
Thomas (9-4, 3.84 ERA) and Manganaro (1-2, 4.97 ERA) will round out the weekend, as the Bulls, last season, tried to fill in a solid Sunday pitcher, shifting through Blake Tillet, Jame Rowe and Chase Lirette.
The Wildcats return their best hitter from 2005 in senior Pat McMahon, who had a .400 batting average through 52 games, 82 hits, 33 RBI, six home runs, 18 doubles and a .452 slugging percentage.
Keep an eye on: catcher Brian Baisley. Baisley batted .349 through 63 games, which was second to his brother, Jeff, with 83 hits and 47 RBI. With the departure of Jeff after being drafted by the Oakland A’s in June and the injury to McHargue, Brian will most likely hit cleanup against both right- and left-handed pitchers.
– Mike Camunas
BEST WESTERN INVITATIONAL
USF, (0-0), Western Kentucky (0-0), Jacksonville (0-2), Mississippi St. (0-0)
When: Today, 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m., Semifinals, 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; Sunday, Finals, 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Where: USF Softball Complex
The story: The USF softball team will start its spring season at home today with a doubleheader against Western Kentucky and Jacksonville. The first of the two games will start at 11 a.m. and will kick off the first day of the USF Best Western Invitational, one of six tournaments the Bulls are scheduled to host this season.
After facing Western Kentucky in the early game, the Bulls will jump right back on the field to play Jacksonville at 1:30 p.m.
On Saturday, USF will return to the field at 1 p.m. to take on Mississippi State.
The tournament’s semifinals round will be held Saturday afternoon at 4 and 6:30, and the finals will take place Sunday at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. with the participating teams still to be determined.
While this weekend will mark the first meeting between South Florida and Western Kentucky, the Bulls are undefeated against Jacksonville and Mississippi State. USF holds all-time records of 9-0 and 2-0, respectively, against the schools.
USF will look to start the season off strong in its first year in the Big East Conference. The Bulls finished last year with an impressive 42-28 record en route to making its third consecutive NCAA Tournament.
Keep an eye on: USF senior Tiffany Stewart. In 2005, Stewart led the Bulls in batting average (.399), slugging percentage (.627), on-base percentage (.500) and walks (32). She also managed to tie senior Christie Chapman for first on the team in home runs (9) and was an All-Conference First Team selection for Conference-USA.
– Eric Moeller
Pittsburgh (15-7, 6-5) at USF (16-8, 6-5)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Sun Dome
TV/Radio: None, 570 AM
The story: Heading toward the end of the season, the women’s team has no room for error with five conferences game remaining on the schedule, including tonight’s contest against Pittsburgh. The Bulls come into their matchup with Pittsburgh looking to avenge a 66-64 loss early in the season. The teams are tied in conference play with 6-5 records. The women’s team can jump into sixth place in the Big East with a victory.
Freshman guard Shantia Grace is looking to continue her scoring success after a 17-point effort in a win against Seton Hall on Wednesday. Grace has become more aggressive on the offensive side of the ball and has proved a second scoring weapon alongside junior guard Jessica Dickson.
Coach Jose Fernandez wasn’t pleased with the team’s performance in a road victory over the Pirates and stressed more consistent play. The women’s team seemed lackadaisical in the first half against Seton Hall, and Grace even admitted after the game that the players were just going through the motions.
Keep an eye on: the Panthers’ trio of Marcedes Walker, Mallorie Winn and Xenia Stewart, who all three average double figures in scoring. Walker leads the Panthers with 17.1 points per game, Winn is at 15.9 points per game and Stewart has 11.0 points per game. Walker also leads Pittsburgh in rebounding with 8.9 per game.
– Charles Gonzalez
USF (6-16, 0-9) at Louisville (15-8, 3-7)
When: Saturday, Noon
Where: Freedom Hall
TV/Radio: ABC 28, 620 AM
The story: The Bulls are coming off their ninth Big East loss – a 70-65 loss Wednesday at the hands of Seton Hall.
USF has now lost six Big East games by six points or less.
Although the Bulls are winless in nine Big East games, they held a lead in eight of the nine games, including against then-No. 24 West Virginia and then-No. 6 Villanova.
In its Wednesday contest with the Pirates, USF led by four with less than eight minutes to go, but late turnovers allowed Seton Hall to win another close game over the Bulls.Louisville, which played in Conference USA with USF, is also struggling in the Big East.
After making it to the Final Four last season, the Cardinals, ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press preseason poll, are in 12th place in the Big East and fighting for a spot in the conference tournament.
Louisville’s last outing was a 74-68 loss Monday at Cincinnati, which the Bulls lost to 73-60 on Jan. 31.
USF is 3-17 all-time against the Cardinals. The two teams’ last matchup was a 65-57 Louisville victory in a C-USA game Feb. 12, 2005.
The Bulls, who have lost three straight to the Cardinals, last beat them 73-67 on Jan. 31, 2001.
Keep an eye on: junior guard Melvin Buckley and senior center Solomon Jones.
Buckley, who tied his career high with 26 points Wednesday, has led the team in scoring in three of the last four games, and in those four games he’s averaging 17.8.Jones, who has nine double-doubles this season, is averaging 13.5 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.
– Kevin Smetana