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Baseball wins first Big East series

Coach Eddie Cardieri wishes he looked as smart as he seemed over the weekend. He wishes keeping senior Brian Baisley out of the lineup in Sunday’s 4-3 win over Connecticut (9-7, 1-2) helped manipulate winning two out of three games against the Huskies.

“I really do wish I was that smart,” said Cardieri, who coached his first Big East series in the Bulls’ conference-opening weekend. “His pinch-hit at-bat was so huge. I looked down (the bench) and he said he could go, so I said, ‘Get a bat and let’s go.'”

It certainly seemed like a smart move when Baisley, who did not start Saturday or Sunday due to lower back pains, hit an RBI double to tie the game at three. Afterward, Huskies relief pitcher Mike Tarsi intentionally loaded the bases by walking Josh LeRoy. The very next pitch, Tarsi plunked pinch hitter Brad Karns on the leg to bring home the game-winning run.

“(Connecticut) was probably one of the tough teams we’ll face this season,” Karns said. “They had really tough pitching. We had plenty of other opportunities to win, but (getting hit by the pitch) was just how the cards fell. Happy to take one for the team.”

Each game of the series was decided by one run in the ninth inning or later. The Bulls won 4-3 Friday on a ninth-inning walk-off RBI double by freshman shortstop Addison Maruszak and lost Saturday on an 11th-inning home run by Connecticut’s Austin Wasserman.

“Three battle royals,” Cardieri said. “We could’ve been swept. We could have swept them. We could’ve only won one, but we were able to be tough enough to win two out of three. I commend everyone on Connecticut, and we were lucky to win, which says a lot of our pitching.”

Junior Casey Hudspeth gave up three runs on six hits in eight innings pitched Friday but did not get the win. Sophomore Daniel Thomas pitched five innings, giving up nine hits and five runs. But it was Davis Bilardello who Cardieri felt stood out during the weekend and had an “outstanding” outing of seven hits, two runs and five strikeouts through eight innings.

“(Today) was what I should’ve been doing the whole year so far,” Bilardello said. “My arm feels good. I’m feeling good right now, and I was glad to contain them to only two runs.

“I like (pitching in) the Sunday slot, because for the first two days I can see the hitters and take a few extra notes.”

Even though all the Big East baseball teams did not kick off their conference games, USF (9-10, 2-1) is in a two-way tie with Pittsburgh for first in the Big East with Seton Hall (6-11, 1-2) coming to town this weekend – a good start, according to the players.

“As a pitching staff, sure, we want to win two out of three games all the time,” Bilardello said. “And if we do that, we’ll be in great shape.”

Bilardello has the support of the Bulls’ young infield.

“I think we have the best pitching staff in the Big East,” Maruszak said. “As a freshman, I’m just worried about playing as a team, not focusing on myself, and I think our hitters are coming around. I don’t care what anyone says, we have the best pitching staff in the Big East – better than Notre Dame.”