Conference race thickens

With fierce competition keeping the Conference USA baseball race tighter than Britney Spears’ abs, the Bulls’ weekend series at UAB still holds a lot of mystery.
“It’s important we finish high in the league because that enhances our chances of an at-large bid, regardless of what happens at the conference tournament,” USF coach Eddie Cardieri said. “We’re not dead in the water (for an at-large bid) yet. We’re second or third in the conference in RPI.”
At 14-13 in C-USA, 29-24 overall, USF stands in a tie with Tulane for sixth place in the conference standings.
The good news is that the Bulls are assured one of the eight berths in the C-USA Tournament and are only a game and a half out of fifth place.
However, the Bulls’ devastating 9-8 loss in the rubber game of the Green Wave series meant that Tulane won the season series, the tiebreaker for determining seeds for the tournament, May 21-26 at Kinston, N.C.
However, USF also has the matchups in its favor for the weekend.
While the Bulls square off for three games with the last-place Blazers (15-38, 6-21) in Birmingham, Tulane (30-23, 14-13) and East Carolina (36-15-1, 15-11-1) both tango with C-USA powerhouses, Southern Miss (35-17, 18-8) and Louisville (37-13, 19-8), respectively.
The top of the league is even more convoluted than the middle of the pack as the Golden Eagles and Cardinals are just two of the four teams within a game of first place vying for the conference title.
USF also received a good confidence boost Tuesday when it knocked off Stetson 6-5 in DeLand. The Hatters (38-14) entered the game winning the season series 3-1, but clutch hitting from Mike Barclay and effective pitching from the bullpen sealed the victory.
Before the game, Cardieri demoted Barclay to the ninth spot in the batting order, but the senior refused to sulk, picking up three hits as he figured into four of USF’s six runs.
Barclay drove in two runs with a RBI single in the second as USF scored four runs in that inning. The center fielder also scored twice on the day.
Cardieri received more good news when senior Jason Bartz pitched two scoreless innings of relief against the Hatters.
Bartz hadn’t pitched in two weeks due to pain in his right forearm.
“Bartz is a miraculous story,” Cardieri said. “It would be a real shot in the arm for us if he can maybe start a game in the Conference USA Tournament.”