USF baseball coach Eddie Cardieri’s philosophy for beginning a new season is a combination of getting a fresh start while remembering the previous year’s mistakes. But that may be tough when his returning players want to forget last season ever happened.
How could they forget?
Even after the Bulls dropped 10 of 15 games down the stretch, a win in the season finale against Louisville would have given them a berth in the Conference USA tournament.
The Bulls had never been left out.
The Bulls took a six-run lead into the ninth inning.
The conference tournament was in the bag, it seemed. Not a player on last year’s roster will forget what happened next.
“We kind of choked at the end,” said third baseman Jeff Baisley, who said he felt helpless as he stood watching the season slip away. “It’s kind of depressing.”
The Cardinals rallied for eight runs in the Bulls’ last inning of the year before USF could even manage an out. USF was held scoreless in the ninth and for the first time in team history, the Bulls were left out of the C-USA tournament.
“You try to keep that out of your mind,” Cardieri said. “It’s the past and it’s negative, so you don’t really want to focus on it. At the same time, hopefully the players use it as incentive to get going this season.”
Baisley and his teammates have had an entire offseason to think about the letdown. Even worse for Baisley, though, is that he didn’t play ball over the summer because of an injury.
“That’s the last game and last at bat you get to think about,” he said. “(Louisville) scoring eight runs in the ninth inning without getting an out. It’s not fun to think about all summer.”
Many of the players on the roster this year weren’t even around a year ago. Four starters from the 2004 team graduated, and ace pitcher Kyle Schmidt left to sign a contract with the Baltimore Orioles.
This will be a different team. Baisley said he doesn’t think last season is worth mentioning to the new guys.
“We don’t have to talk about it because we have a lot of freshmen that are coming here not knowing what to expect and are going to play hard no matter who we play,” he said. “A lot of people here aren’t going to remember it and aren’t going to dwell on it.”
In a preseason coaches’ poll, USF was picked to finish sixth in its final season in C-USA. That would put the Bulls into the tournament this year, since eight of the conference’s 12 teams get an invitation.
Time will tell if the Bulls learned a lesson.