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Bulls aim to secure postseason berth

The South Florida baseball team (22-19, 8-10) won seven of its last eight games, with the only loss coming in extra innings on the road at Rutgers. The Bulls are in seventh place in the Big East Conference, but that could change soon.

USF will play nine games in the next 17 days – six of them in respective three-game series against Villanova at home and St. John’s in New York – that will decide its fate and whether it can start making plans to travel to Clearwater for the Big East tournament.

In the first series over the break, USF will host the Villanova Wildcats (20-20, 5-10 Big East) on April 25-27.

The Wildcats are in 10th place in the conference – just one game behind eighth place Rutgers – and the final berth in the Big East tournament. The Wildcats will likely bring intensity to a series that could determine the fate of their season.

The Wildcats won five of their last seven games and climbed back to a .500 record. They are led by senior shortstop Derek Shunk, who is hitting .351 for the season and has 35 RBIs in 40 games.

If USF can sweep the Wildcats, it will be over .500 in the conference for the first time since it was 2-1 early in the season.

After splitting two games against the Central Florida Knights (26-16, 4-11) earlier this season, the Bulls will face their cross-state rival April 29 and May 6.

The Knights defeated USF 6-3 in their last meeting in Orlando, but have lost their last four games and are in danger of missing the postseason after being in the NCAA Top 25 earlier in the season.

The Knights have lacked consistency in their starting pitching, but their offense has produced throughout the season, averaging seven runs a game in its past four games.

The last team USF plays before the summer semester is St. John’s. The Red Storm (29-9, 11-4) is second in the Big East.

St John’s has won six of its last seven games. If it beats No. 24 Notre Dame this weekend, it could take first place in the Big East and enter the Top 25.

This series will be the biggest test of the season for the Bulls, who will either be trying to crack the conference’s top five or clinging to the seventh or eighth spot. The St John’s series will not only determine how calm the Bulls are heading into their final series of the year against Notre Dame, but show whether USF can aspire to a Big East Championship.