Competing coaches enjoy familiarity

For nearly two decades, they’ve competed on the field, for recruits and even for fish. USF baseball coach Eddie Cardieri and Stetson skipper Pete Dunn, baseball gurus and close colleagues, faced each other for the 81st time on Wednesday, resulting in a thrilling 6-5 win for the Bulls.

Now, 80 games and 19 years later, Cardieri won his 700th career game against the team and the coach he’s faced the most.

This all began on April 16, 1986, in DeLand. As USF’s baseball coach Cardieri was in his first year, Stetson skipper Pete Dunn was in his fifth, and the Hatters pulled out a 5-2 victory.

Since, Cardieri has a 46-34 record against Dunn and has taken two-of-three this season, with another matchup scheduled for May 17.

“It’s been a good rivalry,” said Dunn, in his 26th season. “It’s never boring.”

Known as “E.C.” to his friends, Cardieri, 50, is an avid fisherman. A few years ago, he and Dunn competed together in a Kingfish tournament in Pass-a-Grille, near St. Petersburg.

“We both love to fish,” Dunn said. “But we talk about fishing more than we actually fish together.”

“If we lived closer together,” Cardieri said of Dunn, who lives in DeLand, “We’d be hanging out and doing a lot of fishing.”

Like Cardieri and Dunn, the teams they lead share a long history. In 1966, the USF baseball team’s first year in existence, USF beat Stetson 5-3 in the first-ever meeting between the teams. And since 1979, the cross-state rivals have met at least four times a season, with USF leading the all-time series 71-69.

And for the most part, the series’ usually split.

“We laugh every year,” Dunn said, smiling. “We say, ‘Why do we even play four games? Why don’t we just put two wins in the win column, two losses in the loss column and save some money?'”

When teams play each other this often, memorable moments and great games are sure to occur. Dunn recalls a 2002 game at the NCAA Regional Championships in Tallahassee in which USF came back from deficits of 6-0, and later, 12-6 to shock the Hatters 14-13.

“That was a tough loss,” Dunn said.

This rivalry — USF’s oldest — shouldn’t end any time soon, even as USF prepares to join the Big East next season.

According to Dunn, the two teams are scheduled through 2007. And when asked whether Stetson would ever not be on USF’s schedule, Cardieri said, “No, hopefully never.”

“These games are always battles, and either team can win,” Cardieri said.