Softball clinches unprecedented Big East title
After three years in the Big East, USF has another first to boast, as its softball team clinched the program's first conference regular-season championship, finishing atop the league standings with a 16-4 record.
"We are extremely proud of this team,” coach Ken Eriksen said in a statement. “We come in each year with one goal in mind and that is to take one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time. We are not done yet. Going into the conference tournament we have to remain focused and take that same philosophy after the regular season.”
USF didn't get to play Sunday, as its final doubleheader at Connecticut was cancelled due to unplayable conditions. But the Bulls' 16-4 record held up as the league's best, as second-place DePaul split two games at Pittsburgh to finish 16-6. The Bulls will be the top seed in this weekend's Big East tournament at Louisville, playing eighth-seeded Providence, which USF swept two games from Saturday.
In three years in the Big East, USF's only other conference title is the women's tennis team's championship from the 2007 conference tournament. Softball's milestone is the first regular-season win, this after finishing second in each of its first two years in the league.
We'll have more on softball as the Bulls prepare for the conference tournament and almost certainly a return to the NCAA Tournament later this month.
-- Recruiting update: Gaby Belardo, the 6-foot-3 combo guard from Puerto Rico who made an official campus visit to USF this weekend, had an "excellent" weekend with the Bulls, according to Art Alvarez, his AAU coach with the Miami Tropics. Belardo "really, really liked it" at USF and will make his college decision Sunday night, Alvarez said, though he won't disclose his choice until Monday morning.
Belardo is expected to be the sixth member of USF's incoming recruiting class (counting center Alex Rivas-Sanchez, who has committed to the Bulls but hasn't officially signed), and the Bulls could have one more addition this summer in Teeng Akol, a center from IMG Academy in Bradenton.
Belardo Update: There's one more thing that makes Belardo's visit well-timed for USF, as another former Tropics guard from Puerto Rico, rising senior Jesus Verdejo, graduated from USF this weekend while Belardo was in town. It's a powerful statement to have someone from your country and your basketball program who already has a degree and can line up with you next season. Verdejo's graduation made the front page at Miamitropicslive.com, and that story also referenced Belardo's visit.
The site writes that USF's coaches "desperately" want Belardo, adding that he was "impressed" by the visit. The site says Belardo has another visit lined up for later this week, but if Alvarez says he'll have a decision in the morning, that too bodes well for USF's chances ...