Baseball, softball ready for crucial conference games
BASEBALL GAME TIME
Georgetown (19-24, 5-10) at USF (19-23, 8-10)
When: Tonight, 7
Where: Red McEwen Field
The story: The Bulls host the Hoyas in what will be their final home Big East series of the season. With nine conference games remaining, USF is in eighth place in the Big East. The top eight teams make it to the Big East Tournament, which will be played at Bright House Field in Clearwater on May 23-28.
The Bulls have lost four of their last six games and are struggling to get their overall record and conference record back to .500.
USF is 3-6 in its last three Big East series, including a three-game sweep by Notre Dame. In their last Big East series, the Bulls fell twice to Pittsburgh, which is in 10th place in the 12-team conference.
USF’s last game was a 12-9 extra-inning loss to Stetson on Tuesday at Red McEwen Field. Trailing 9-8 in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Hatters, USF tied the game when freshman Addison Maruszak hit his first collegiate home run. But in the 11th inning, Stetson hit a two-run home run and added another run to win the game.
Georgetown is coming off a 10-6 win against George Washington on Tuesday, but the Hoyas were swept by Cincinnati in their last Big East series.
This will be the first-ever meeting between USF and Georgetown.
Keep an eye on: Brian Baisley. After missing significant playing time with a back injury, the senior catcher has started behind the plate in three of the Bulls’ last four games. With his career at USF coming to an end, Baisley is fourth on the team with a .315 batting average and is second with 10 doubles despite starting just 26 of USF’s 42 games this season.
– Kevin Smetana
SOFTBALL GAME TIME
Notre Dame (32-13, 13-1) at USF (41-20, 11-1)
When: Saturday, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Where: USF Softball Complex
The story: The two top-ranked softball teams in the Big East will face each other Saturday when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish come to Tampa to face the Bulls in a conference doubleheader.
The Bulls are 11-1 in their first year in the Big East and ranked No. 2 in the conference. Defending Big East champion Notre Dame has a 13-1 conference record and hold the No. 1 spot in the Big East.
The doubleheader could prove to be a postseason preview, as both squads have already clinched spots in the Big East Tournament, which will be held at Notre Dame’s Ivy Field in South Bend, Ind., on May 10-13.
The Bulls have won 14 of their last 16 games but are coming off their first conference loss of the season, following a 1-0 shutout at the hands of Syracuse on Sunday.
While USF has played well recently, it will be matching up against a Notre Dame that is carrying some momentum of its own. The Fighting Irish have won 13 of their last 15 games and are 16-1 at home this season.
Pitching should play a huge role in Saturday’s games, as both teams have a pair of starters who have been giving opposing batters headaches all season.
The Bulls’ tandem of Bree Spence (19-6) and Cristi Ecks (17-11) has combined to pitch 17 shutouts this season. Ecks’ 1.02 ERA is second in the Big East, while Spence’s 1.12 mark is good for third.
The Fighting Irish’s pitching staff features a solid pair of their own with freshman Brittney Bargar (15-4) and senior Heather Booth (17-9). Booth’s .188 opposing batting average is third in the Big East, and Bargar’s 141 strikeouts puts her sixth in the conference.
After facing Notre Dame, the Bulls will host another Big East team.
DePaul (27-15, 9-5 Big East) will travel to the USF Softball Complex to take on USF in a conference doubleheader Sunday.
Keep an eye on: Notre Dame’s Stephanie Brown. The junior utility player is leading the Fighting Irish in batting average (.397), hits (56) and runs (33).
– Eric Moeller