Bulls chase bid without Rios

Starting pitcher Travis Rios was suddenly expelled from the USF baseball team May 1, and no one wants to talk about it.

Rios himself was unavailable for comment, and USF assistant coach Bryan Peters said the USF baseball staff cannot reach Rios either.

The subject was also taboo for every other member of the coaching staff, who would only confirm that Rios was dismissed for a team violation.

“He was dismissed from the team for inappropriate behavior, violation of team rules and after that I can’t comment any further.” coach Eddie Cardieri said.

Pitching coach Nelson North said Rio’s return this season was impossible, and that his return next year was extremely doubtful.

“(Rios) would have to go through a lot of things to back on the team,” North said.

North would not say what those things were due to the fact that it would uncover why Rios was dismissed.

Rios, who near the middle of the season solidified his spot in the starting rotation, ended his season at USF with a 6-1 record and a 3.07 ERA. Rios, who only allowed 44 hits in 12 games, had arguably the best game of his career against Cincinnati on April 20 when he put together a complete game allowing only one hit.

“He was a Sunday starter with a 6-1 record,” North said. “He is already missed.”

USF baseball must win one game this weekend against Memphis in order to secure a berth to the Conference USA tournament. If the Bulls are unable to do so, their fate rests in the hands of conference rival Charlotte.

“I don’t think (having to win) hinders (us),” USF coach Eddie Cardieri said. “If we can’t win a game, we don’t deserve to go.”

In C-USA, the top eight finishers in the regular season move on to play in the C-USA Tournament. With six teams already having secured bids, and three already eliminated, USF, Memphis and Charlotte are left to fight for two open spots this weekend.

If USF, who is 12-13 in C-USA, beat the Tigers once, they would end the conference season 13-15 and Memphis would end their season 12-17, allowing USF to secure a bid.

Otherwise, the series between Charlotte and conference worst, Cincinnati, will determine the Bulls’ fate. Two Charlotte losses to Cincinnati would see the Bulls clinch a tournament berth.

The Bulls may have a hard time securing a win this weekend. With five wins in their past six conference games, the Tigers, for the first time in conference history, won a series against Houston, a team the Bulls were only able to beat once this season. Memphis stole the opening game against Houston behind the arm of C-USA pitcher of the week Jarrett Grube. The right-hand junior allowed only two hits and one unearned run Friday against Houston, earning his second C-USA pitcher of the week award.

“Memphis is playing very well. They’ve won six of their last eight conference games (and) they beat Houston two out of three (last) weekend,” Cardieri said. “It’s not going to be like we can throw our gloves out there. We’ve got to go out there and play well.”

Despite the success of Grube, the Tigers’ pitching staff has a 5.58 ERA. In addition, Houston’s staff has allowed over 10 runs per game, something USF could take advantage of.

Despite Memphis’s high staff ERA, Cardieri is not over confident because Tuesday’s 7-1 loss against Stetson showcased a pitcher the Bulls have had statistical advantage against, yet he threw a complete game allowing only one run on five hits.

“Looking at the stats, you go ‘yeah, we should swing the bat,’ but then again we’re not swinging the bat very well no matter who we face,” Cardieri said. “In baseball you just don’t know. You can’t assume anything,”

With the expulsion of pitcher Travis Rios, and a bad losing slump, USF has a lot on their plate as they head into this three-game series that will determine their post season fate. Nonetheless, Cardieri is upbeat about his team turning things around.

“There is an old adage I use,” Cardieri said. “If you ever could, you always can. We sure could hit. We sure used to be able to hit. I am going to keep being optimistic that we can get to swinging the bat again.”