Cardieri saves ace for C-USA opener

When the USF baseball coach Eddie Cardieri filled out his lineup card against No. 6 Miami Wednesday, he could have started his ace, Kyle Schmidt. But Cardieri had an eye on the schedule and decided the first weekend of conference play against Cincinnati was more important.

“I’m looking forward to our players picking their game up another notch to get ready for conference, that’s how you get to the NCAA’s,” Cardieri said. “(Conference play) is the vehicle to the NCAA tournament.”

Schmidt (3-1) will start in the opener Friday at 7 p.m. and freshmen Nick Manganaro (3-1) and Casey Hudspeth (3-1) will be the starters Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at noon, respectively.

This weekend’s staff, all new to USF this season, has become pretty respectable so far . Schmidt has 29 strikeouts in only 29.1 innings, while Manganaro has only given up 10 walks in 27.2 innings pitched. Hudspeth leads the team with 33 strikeouts and he impressed with a win over the Hurricanes on Tuesday.

Cardieri is happy with his rotation for this weekend against the Bearcats.

“With the conference now we have to have our rotation lined up so that we can get after each conference series.”

Cincinnati (3-12) has struggled this season. The Bulls took two of three games from the Bearcats in their final meeting last season.

Softball team comfortable at home

The USF softball team hosts Southern Miss this weekend, starting with a doubleheader Saturday at the USF Softball Complex at 1 p.m. and finishing Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Bulls have been dominant at home this season and face a Lady Eagle team that struggles on the road, winning only three of 10 away from Hattiesburg. USF is 18-2 at home on the season.

The Bulls (31-7) also enter the game with a five-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 36-5 during the stretch.

Southern Miss was 12-14 entering a doubleheader Thursday night against Louisiana Tech. The Lady Eagles come to Tampa hot, having won 7 of their last 10 games.

Men’s tennis faces busy slate

There’s no rest for the weary USF men’s tennis team, as it only gets a day’s rest after Wednesday’s double-header, hitting the Varsity Tennis Courts again today and Saturday.

“I think (my team) is ready to go,” USF coach Don Barr said. “But you always wish you had a few more days.”

The Bulls will have had less than 48 hours of preparation when they take the court today at 2 p.m. against No. 64 Indiana (5-6). USF will then take on unranked San Francisco (6-8) Saturday.

On Wednesday, the Bulls dispatched Army 6-1 and then swept Georgia Southern. With the wins, USF increased its winning record to 8-3, while at the same time moving up the national rankings to No. 36.

Indiana is coming off a fresh 7-0 victory Thursday against San Francisco. Despite its opponents’ losing records, Barr said that his team is fully aware how important these matches are for post-season opportunities.

“They know that every single match is important,” Barr said. “At No. 36 you can be on the bubble; they definitely are not going to take any matches for granted.”

After this weekend, USF will leave Tampa twice in two weeks to take on Georgia and Pepperdine. The back-to-back road trips will be the longest of the season, not counting the Conference USA Shootout.

“We are three points away from an undefeated season, it’s something we have to build on,” Barr said. “We know we have a good team.”

Women take losing streak on road

After losing six straight matches, the USF women’s tennis team will be looking for a road victory as it travels to Boca Raton to take on in-state opponent FAU Saturday at 11 a.m.

The Owls (2-3) are ranked No. 73 and will enter the match on a nine-game win streak, having swept six of their last nine opponents. The Bulls enter the match with six straight losses, two of which were 4-3 losses and two of which were on the losing end of sweeps.

Despite the losses, USF coach Gigi Fernandez said her team is ready to win.

“Part of being good is going through the struggle,” Fernandez said Monday. “When we turn the corner it will just make it that much more satisfying and we will turn the corner. It’s just a matter of time.”

Fernandez deliberately planned all the higher-ranked opponents on the Bulls’ early in the schedule. She wanted, and got, the toughest schedule in Conference USA. She hoped to make the schedule tough to challenge her players and to attract recruits.

“Our conference is not as strong as the teams we are playing,” Fernandez said. “We play the strongest schedule of anybody in the conference.”

Confident that her team will finish in the topfour of C-USA, Fernandez will have to guide the Bulls against the Owls without sophomore Fabiana Taverna. Taverna is in a cast after X-rays showed a mild strain in her wrist; she is expected to miss two weeks.