Big weekend starts tonight for USF athletics
Just as the excitement of USF's men's basketball run in the NCAA Tournament is dying down, USF has a huge weekend that starts up tonight, with baseball and softball opening their Big East schedules at home, as well as women's basketball trying to extend its season yet again with a WNIT game at James Madison.
USF baseball (14-8) has its best record entering Big East play since 2007, Lelo Prado's first season, when the Bulls were 13-6 and finished with a 34-26 record. The Bulls, who open tonight at 7 against Georgetown, have their first two Big East series at home, with the benefit of having 15 of their 27 Big East games at home this season. Prado will start senior Andrew Barbosa tonight, with Joe LoVecchio following on Saturday and Matt Reed expected to get the start on Sunday.
USF softball (26-5) has matched its best start ever, and the Bulls open their Big East season at home Saturday against Rutgers (11-12), which has one great hitter in Brittney Lindley (hitting .431) but no other players hitting so much as .300. Their team ERA is 4.08, so when you compare that to USF's 0.97 staff ERA, there's an opportunity for a sweep if the Bulls' bats are there to match their pitching. The series kicks off with a doubleheader Saturday starting at 2.
Softball caught a break in the Big East's scheduling, which has each school face only 8 of its 12 conference opponents in the regular season. USF doesn't have to face DePaul -- picked to win the league in the preseason coaches' poll -- or Notre Dame, picked third in the same poll, one spot ahead of the Bulls, which could give the Bulls an easier path to a regular-season Big East title.
And last but not least, USF women's basketball plays tonight at James Madison in the WNIT Sweet 16. Win there, and the Bulls stay in Virginia to play the Cavaliers on Sunday for a spot in the WNIT Final Four.
Several football players took part in the Bulls Invitational track meet on Friday -- Lindsey Lamar took fifth in the 100 meters with a time of 10.45 seconds, while Chris Dunkley took ninth in 10.70. Freshman Kenneth Durden took sixth in the triple jump.
And football coach Skip Holtz said Friday that Saturday's practice will be open to the public -- fans can come by USF's practice facility for the workouts, which will start at 11 a.m. and wrap up around 1 p.m. There should already be a good crowd on hand with 200 coaches or so attending Holtz's annual coaching clinic on campus.