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Long ball long gone

Numbers don’t lie.

The Bulls (14-19, 5-7), in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, have been producing hits (330, enough to place them third in the Big East), but have been lacking the most popular of statistics: home runs.

USF has 11 home runs through 33 games, while the individual high is three, by first baseman Brandin Daniel.

But 21-year coach Eddie Cardieri claims there are other factors contributing to this low statistic. The major – the one that actually has Cardieri a little riled up – is the equipment, especially the new brand of baseballs USF had to start using when it entered the Big East.

The Bulls are now using Rawlings balls – the official brand of the Big East – instead of the Wilson balls they were using in Conference USA.

“This is our first year using the ball,” Cardieri said. “But it seems to wear (out) faster. What we do is take the game balls, which are new, and then use them in batting practice, and at batting practice we don’t hit as many out as we used to.”

Cardieri claims he “can’t tell the difference” between the Wilson and the Rawlings “because there’s just not enough information on them,” but he’s riled about Cincinnati being able to use Wilson balls during the teams’ series March 31-April 2.

“The facts are, we played with Wilson in Cincinnati,” Cardieri said. “I don’t know why (the conference) let them, but they did.”

It might seem like a trivial detail, except the Bulls hit five home runs when playing the Bearcats. And last season, when using the Wilson balls in C-USA, USF hit 63 home runs.

Cardieri said other teams, such as Florida, have echoed Cardieri’s sentiment that the ball gets “softer much faster.”

“There’s just no one thing you can put your finger on,” Cardieri said. “I’ve only talked to a few of my colleagues, and they aren’t happy (with the balls) either.”

While Florida has 35 home runs through 36 games using the Rawlings balls, the Gators hit 85 home runs through 75 games in 2005. The Bulls, however, are averaging a home run every 106 at-bats.

And even though the numbers appear to be down this season, Cardieri said the coaching strategy hasn’t changed.

“We just don’t have a lot of power in our lineup, and that power hasn’t been there,” Cardieri said. “Our philosophy hasn’t changed. We’re doing the same thing as always.”

Cardieri also said he felt other factors, such as wind keeping balls inside the park, have kept the team total down.

“I guarantee you we’ve hit at least 10 balls that have stayed in the park because of the wind,” Cardieri said.

Cardieri added that injuries, such as the broken hand of Matt McHargue and Brian Baisley’s sporadically healthy back, have left the lineup in shambles.

“The first 15-20 games, we didn’t have Matt,” Cardieri said. “Then, on top of that, as soon as we get him back, we lose Brian. Because of that, we haven’t had a cleanup hitter and a five-spot hitter – it hasn’t happened in a game this year. You may not get a home run out of the No. 1 hitter, or No. 2 or No. 3, but we know we’re going to get power out of McHargue and Baisley.

“Having them in the lineup, it would have probably give us an additional 10-20 (home runs) on the season.”

Even though the home run numbers are lacking, McHargue, who has hit 21 home runs as a Bull, doesn’t blame bats or balls. The senior knows his team is capable of hitting the long balls.

“We can’t blame (the balls and the bats). We have a different team than we did last year,” McHargue said. “(Baisley) and (Hierlmeier) were both good players, but I think we had a lot of good players come in, and we have to make the adjustments.”

Baseball Game Time USF (14-19, 5-7) at UCF (20-15, 3-3)When: Tonight, 6:30 Where: Jay Bergman Field Radio: 740 AM