USF one win away from Big East title

The USF baseball team needs just one win in a three-game series at Louisville this weekend to clinch its first Big East regular season championship in school history.

However, the Bulls want more than one victory over the Cardinals in the series, which starts Thursday at 6 p.m.

USF holds a 18-6 conference record and a 2.5 game lead over Louisville, which carries a 16-7 record into this weekend. With a three-game sweep of the Bulls, the Cardinals could take the top-seed in next week’s Big East tournament.

“You can’t go into a three game series with a mindset of just winning one game,” said centerfielder Ryan Lockwood, who had three hits in five at bats in USF’s 11-6 victory over North Florida on Tuesday night. “That’s the wrong attitude and we’ll lose all three if we take it.”

Sophomore Derrick Stultz is expected to start Thursday for the Bulls, followed by Shawn Sanford on Friday.

No. 1 starter Randy Fontanez isn’t expected to pitch this weekend, but will start the first game of the Big East tournament Tuesday.

Louisville (37-14, 16-7) is ranked No. 23 by Baseball America. USF is receiving votes in the latest USA Today Poll.

“Rankings are rankings, numbers are numbers. It doesn’t affect us at all,” said freshman Sam Mende, who also had three hits Tuesday.

The series could also have implications for USF’s hopes of making it to regionals. USF is projected to be a No. 4 seed by College Baseball.

“We’re not going up there to win one game, we have to win at least two for regional purposes,” said USF coach Lelo Prado after Tuesday’s doubleheader.