Half-game from first, Bulls seek Big East title
Ken Eriksen made it very clear this week that his USF softball team is focused on the Big East tournament the Bulls are hosting starting today and the conference tournament championship that carries with it an automatic berth in NCAA regionals.
But Eriksen also acknowledged that the final regular-season standings left the Bulls a half-game out of first place as a result of a game canceled when USF could only play one game of a weekday doubleheader at Seton Hall so the team could make its scheduled flight home. USF finished 9-1 on the road in Big East play, and Eriksen said the Bulls "in all honesty, should have been 10-1."
Eriksen said USF (16-2 in the Big East at the time) had requested that the 2 p.m. first pitch for the first game on April 23 at Seton Hall be moved earlier to allow for more time for USF to make its evening flight home; that request was denied, he said, perhaps because of "class scheduling." Of the 13 Big East weekday doubleheaders played this season, the other 12 all started their first games between noon and 1 p.m.
The first game was a 6-3 USF win, but took longer than normal at two hours and 34 minutes, and the two schools, not wanting to risk USF missing the flight home, agreed to cancel the second game. USF finished 18-3 in the Big East, but Notre Dame, playing a full schedule, went 19-3 and won the regular-season title.
"It doesn't matter because it wasn't an automatic bid. It'd be nice for another trophy in the trophy case, but trophy case doesn't mean anything. We're playing for the big picture," Eriksen said. "You get this, you get an automatic bid to the NCAAs. You have to make sure your team understands that. We played what we could. We couldn't control that. We requested the early times. We did what we were supposed to do. How others didn't step in, I don't know. It's none of my business. We followed the protocol."
Seton Hall was 4-11 in the Big East when the game was canceled; the Pirates won four of their last six games and finished 8-13, and had they played USF and lost in the second game, they wouldn't be in Tampa, having taken the eighth and final spot in the field by finishing a half-game ahead of three 8-14 teams. Seton Hall plays today against top-seeded Notre Dame at 12:30, while second-seeded USF will play tonight at 6:30 against seventh-seeded Providence.
USF and Seton Hall, of course, will part ways as conference rivals this summer, with USF moving to the American Athletic Conference and Seton Hall moving with six other league schools to the new Big East.