Coach Eddie Cardieri has preached to his players all season that the most important time to play well is at the end of the season.
This weekend, with only a few games remaining in the season, the USF baseball team traveled to Birmingham, Ala., tied with UAB in the conference, and took a pivotal series from the Blazers. USF won 8-3 Sunday after the teams split the first two contests, which gave USF the series and its thirtieth win of the year.
With the win, USF claimed its first series win after dropping five straight to Conference USA opponents.
The wins kept the Bulls in seventh place in the conference. The team controls its own destiny in the race to make the C-USA tournament. A series win this weekend against Louisville assures USF a spot in the tournament.
“It was definitely big,” Cardieri said. “We played well and the main thing is just to be playing well down the stretch and try to enhance our position.”
A good start by Kyle Schmidt was the difference in the game Sunday, Cardieri said. Schmidt (8-3) allowed two runs on five hits in six innings. He retired the first nine batters he faced and held UAB scoreless for the first four innings.
“Kyle Schmidt pitched great,” Cardieri said. “I mean he really pitched great. It’s a good thing Kyle pitched well.”
Schmidt had five strikeouts on the day before Chase Lirette came in to pitch the final three innings. Lirette, who has also been used as a starter this season, earned his second save of the season.
USF took an early lead when RBI singles by Bryan Hierlmeier and Jeff Baisley and a sacrifice fly by Devin Ivany in the first inning put the Bulls up 3-0.
In the second, senior Mike Macaluso hit his second home run of the season to put USF up 4-0. Three runs in the top of the third put the game away for USF.
USF started the series off with a 23-5 win on Friday. The Bulls hit four home runs on the night and collected a season-high 22 hits. Ivany, Baisley, Jeremy Brand and Matt McHargue all hit home runs in the win. Starter Casey Hudspeth (8-3) struck out 10 in seven innings, allowing three runs on four hits. The freshman leads the team with 71 strikeouts.
USF lost 8-5 on Saturday, setting up Sunday’s series-deciding game.
The 36 runs the Bulls put up against UAB is the second most they’ve scored in a series this season. Tuesday, the Bulls put up 13 runs in a win over Stetson.
“We did well against Stetson also on Tuesday so hopefully we can keep it rolling,” Cardieri said.
USF hosts its final three games this weekend against Louisville. The Cardinals sit in ninth place — just two games back of the Bulls — and need some wins to move into the top eight and qualify for the conference tournament.