Inside USF baseball’s nonconference slate

USF will face six teams in its nonconference slate who have been present in the NCAA tournament for the last two years. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO.

Two seasons ago, USF baseball dominated the postseason with its extravagant run to Super Regionals against Texas. After barely posting a .500 winning record in 2022, the Bulls are hoping for redemption in their 2023 campaign.

The Bulls (28-29, 8-16 AAC) were plagued with injuries — former pitcher Jack Jasiak and batting order asset junior outfielder Drew Brutcher were both hurt. It was difficult for the team to play to their full potential.

This season, the Bulls have added an array of transfers and freshmen, and have preserved some key players to compete with their hefty nonconference schedule this year.

Here is a deep dive into South Florida baseball’s road to Omaha:

Opening weekend — Maryland, Feb. 17-19

Big Ten powerhouse No. 18 Maryland has become a repetitive contender in the postseason— and now the Bulls will open their season at home against them.

The Terrapins (48-18, 18-5 Big Ten) finished their 2022 as regular season conference champions. This was followed by a heartbreaking defeat against No. 16 Connecticut in the College Park Regional they hosted.

Since 2017, Maryland has made three NCAA tournament appearances and has secured two NCAA regional championship wins in 2014 and 2015, showing its consistency as a program.

USF is known to start off its campaigns strong, with the Bulls showcasing a round robin weekend last season against Connecticut, Louisville and Charlotte. This year will be no different.

Florida, Feb. 21-22

Being a baseball team in the state of Florida means having to face dominant programs like No. 21 UF, the 2017 NCAA College World Series champions. This year, the Bulls will have a two-game midweek series with one game in Tampa and the other in Gainesville.

Florida (42-24, 15-15 SEC) is known for its overachieving demeanor, being present in the NCAA tournament since 2008 under coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

Last time the Bulls and Gators met, UF defeated USF 18-3 in Tampa. The Bulls’ last victory over the Gators was in the Gainesville Regional in 2021, where USF claimed the regional as its own after taking on UF and South Alabama.

Facing Maryland and then heading into a strapping midweek matchup just two days later will be a challenge for the Bulls – one that will take careful planning and preparation.

Florida Atlantic, Feb. 24-26

FAU has been on an upward trend in recent years, slowly but surely peaking in the NCAA tournament with their last appearance in 2019 and posting a record over .550 since 2009. USF will travel to Boca Raton for its second series of the season.

Florida Atlantic (35-23, 19-11 C-USA) hasn’t had much luck with South Florida overall, with the Bulls winning the last 14 out of 17 matches.

Not only will this be a competitive matchup between the two, but it will be more common throughout the next few years. The Owls are joining the AAC next year with their departure from Conference USA.

Florida State, March 1

With the end of the 43-year legacy of the Martin family leading the FSU baseball team, this will be the first year new head coach and former Seminole Link Jarrett will be in charge.

FSU (34-25, 15-15 ACC) is renowned in the college baseball world, making an NCAA tournament appearance every year since 1978 and posting an overall .721 winning percentage as a program. The Bulls haven’t had much luck with the Seminoles, with just one win in the last 11 games against them.

An opponent like Florida State adds on to the challenges of the USF schedule.

Northeastern, March 3-5

Sporting the No. 3 earned run average in the country, Northeastern baseball has been up-and-coming since their NCAA tournament appearances in 2018 and 2021.

Though the Huskies (31-29-1, 10-14 CAA) record didn’t show the same command they have displayed in past years, their pitching staff has. As a whole, their rotation held a 3.61 ERA in 2022.

Northeastern has preserved 14 of its staff members from last season, hoping to produce similar results in pitching to last year.

Pittsburg, March 7

Pittsburg baseball will take the road to face South Florida in USF’s third midweek contest of the season.

Comparing both schools, Pitt (29-27, 13-16 ACC) and USF both performed to a similar caliber last season, almost breaking even in wins and losses. Along with their record, their statistics in the batting and pitching categories are almost similar.

Behind the plate, the Panthers bat .273 while the Bulls put up .263. However, USF posted a .582 ERA, whereas Pitt showed a whopping 6.19 ERA. In some areas, one excels and the other not so much, so it will depend on how both teams’ rosters stack up in the spring to determine who will claim the win.

Long Beach State, March 10-12

For USF’s first out of state road trip, the Bulls will head out west to play Long Beach State in California.

Long Beach (29-27, 17-13 Big West) has a No. 7 ranked pitching staff with a 3.83 ERA, but its results don’t reflect the quality of its team. If LBS can’t be a well-rounded offense by the time they face USF, the Bulls will have a strong chance against the Dirtbags.

Dartmouth, March 14-15

Following its trip to California, USF will host Ivy League Dartmouth at Red McEwen Field.

The Big Green (24-19, 14-7 Ivy League) may have a great collective batting average of .292, but what hurts them the most is their pitching rotation. In 2022, Dartmouth finished their campaign with a 6.16 ERA.

Part of their skilled batting order is junior infielder Tyler Cox, who was ranked 10th in the nation with a .402 batting average. If their offense can hold up, USF is up for a challenge.

Army, March 17-19

Army baseball will travel from New York to Tampa to compete in their fifth competition with the Bulls. USF has come out successful in all four of its contests.

West Point (31-25, 18-7 Patriot League) completed their previous season as regular season and conference tournament champions with an NCAA tournament appearance in the Hattiesburg Regional.

Along with a fortunate 2022, the Black Knights also come in with a skilled batting order that put up a collective .299 average, with all nine starters batting over .250. They will be a formidable foe for the Bulls’ pitching staff.

FGCU, March 21 and April 25

One of South Florida’s most anticipated and lively matchups is the team right down I-75, Florida Gulf Coast. The two have always put up a fight, but one has come out victorious in 12 of their meetings.

FGCU (35-23, 17-13 ASUN) has only let USF get the upper hand four times in 16 games. The Bulls’ most recent win was 16-7 last season before they dropped their home match 12-4 less than a month later.

It is difficult to predict how this pair will line up with each other, but it might be fair to say they will split these one game face-off’s once again.

Virginia Commonwealth, March 24-26

South Florida’s last nonconference home series will include taking on Virginia Commonwealth, another postseason contender.

VCU (42-20, 19-5 A10) has competed in the NCAA tournament in 2021 and 2022 and has claimed the title of conference tournament champions in those respective years. With this success comes their No. 9 pitching rotation, which collectively holds a 3.91 ERA, right above Notre Dame.

For what will be the Bulls’ final nonconference series, the Rams will put them to the test to prepare for their conference slate.

Bethune Cookman, March 28 and April 11

Just on the other side of the state, South Florida will travel to Daytona and host one other time for midweek contests against Bethune Cookman.

Previously, the Bulls powered over the Wildcats (27-32, 19-11 SWAC) 13-2, as well as racking up 17 wins against them since their first meeting in 2008.

If the Bulls extend their five game streak to seven, these two games should add another couple of wins to their record.

North Florida, April 4 and April 18

Continuing the Floridian midweek trend, USF will split up its meetings with North Florida, a team that the Bulls have struggled with before.

Both contests against the Ospreys (22-33, 11-18 ASUN) ended in 2-1 and 13-10 losses. The first defeat was after the Bulls played five games in six days, and the second was following Central Florida’s sweep over South Florida.

Adding on these two matches to the win column would be crucial for USF.

Stetson, May 2 and May 16

Wrapping up USF’s final nonconference duel is Stetson, where they will split locations as they have with the other Florida teams.

The Hatters (26-29, 10-20 ASUN) haven’t seen much action in the postseason since 2018, slowly sinking under a .500 winning percentage and falling behind in their conference as other teams flourish.

Now, South Florida will have a chance of redemption after their last meeting resulted in a 6-4 loss at home despite dominating Stetson two games before.