After 16 straight home games, 12 of which the Bulls have won, USF baseball coach Eddie Cardieri is starting to talk about making the NCAA tournament.
USF (18-8, 4-2) travels to Stetson tonight for a 7 p.m. non-conference game. Cardieri said even though it is not a C-USA game, it is the type his team must win to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
“These midweek games are very important in terms of the at-large bids to the regionals,” Cardieri said. “The teams that are going to be there at the end or on the bubble at the end are going to be teams like us and UCF and Stetson. That’s who we play in the middle of the week so they are very important games.”
The Bulls last made the NCAA tournament in 2002. Besides an at-large bid, a C-USA championship would also give USF an automatic bid into this year’s tournament.
Cardieri said Chase Lirette would get the nod against the Hatters. The freshman from Tallahassee has pitched mainly in relief this season. In his only start Feb. 17 against Jacksonville, Lirette gave up three runs on six hits while striking out five for the win. After that start he was C-USA’s Pitcher of the Week.
Lirette pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief in the 9-3 loss to Southern Miss on Sunday. He gave up one hit and struck out two on the outing. Stetson (17-10) is looking for a win after it lost both games of a double header Saturday against UCF. The Bulls beat Stetson 6-4 earlier in the season at Stetson in the Stetson Invitational but are only 2-4 on the road this season.
Catcher hot at the plate
Devin Ivany goes into tonight’s game with a 12-game hit streak. The streak was extended Sunday when he belted a double down the third-base line. The junior is on the Johnny Bench Award watch list after he was a finalist for the award last season.
First baseman Matt McHargue probably won’t play tonight, Cardieri said. The sophomore pulled a hamstring Sunday against the Golden Eagles. McHargue’s injury came after third baseman Jeff Baisley broke his foot three weeks ago. After McHargue came out of Sunday’s game, Cardieri had to move some players around. Brian Baisley moved from third to first, and Jeremy Brand came off the bench to play third.
Ellis Pitcher of the Week, again
Conference USA honors seem to be routine for USF softball pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis. Ellis, who was awarded the C-USA Pitcher of the Week honor Monday, has earned the title a total of four times this season.
Ellis (26-4) helped the Bulls to an undefeated weekend, winning three games and saving one. After the weekend, where she struck out 21 batters in 17.1 innings and allowed only six hits, Ellis improved her ERA to .83.