Midweek losses could catch up to baseball
As successful as USF baseball has been in opening Big East play with a 10-2 record, the Bulls' recent struggles in midweek games, including getting swept in a home doubleheader Wednesday by Florida International, could cost them as they seek a spot as one of 64 teams in the NCAA regionals.
There's something of a magic number that you need 40 wins to earn an at-large bid to NCAAs, and USF is 22-13 with 20 games left, plus the Big East tournament in Clearwater next month. For the Bulls to make the NCAAs then, they'd need to win the conference tournament, or finish 15-5 down the stretch and win three games in Clearwater, hoping that 40 wins would get them in.
The Big East had just two teams make the NCAAs last season -- league champ Louisville and St. John's, which got an at-large with a 41-14 record. Cincinnati, which went 39-20 with a 19-8 conference record, didn't make the cut. In 2007, three Big East teams made the NCAAs, all with at least 40 wins. USF is tied for the Big East lead at 10-2, and has the league's third-most wins with 22, trailing Louisville (24-10) and West Virginia (27-7). The Bulls have three-game series ahead against both the Mountaineers and Cardinals.
The Bulls' remaining competition is tougher than what they've faced thus far -- USF's three conference sweeps are against Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Georgetown, who are a combined 10-26 in league play. USF could get another sweep this weekend at Villanova (3-9), but the remaining four series are against teams who are a combined 29-19 in the Big East.
All this reinforces why 24-11 would look much better than 22-13, though the remaining midweek games are winnable, with a tough game at Florida (25-12) next week, then home-and-home series with Central Florida (12-25) and North Florida (15-23). USF is 2-4 in its last six midweek games, with losses to Stetson and Jacksonville, but the Bulls need to win the nonconference games if they aspire to postseason play.
Statistical leaders in Big East play? Randy Fontanez has easily the league's lowest ERA at 1.41, with a 3-1 record; Matt Quevedo isn't far behind with a 2.50 ERA and 3-0 mark. USF leads all Big East teams in staff ERA (3.70) and saves (4) with a league-low 33 walks issued.
At the plate, Todd Brazeal is fifth in the league with a .425 average in conference play and tied for third with 16 RBIs; Ryan Lockwood, shaking off a slow start, is just behind Brazeal with a .423 average. And curiously, Jonathan Koscso entered the week tied for the national lead in sacrifice flies, with seven ...
-- We'd told you that former Bulls star Jeff Baisley was designated for assignment by the Oakland A's, and he's since been added to the roster of the A's affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, the Sacramento River Cats. Baisley has five hits in his first 15 at-bats for a .333 average ... Brother Brian, who also played at USF, is playing with the Charleston RiverDogs and hitting .273 in his first six games.