Indulge us momentarily as we direct your attention from brackets to box scores.
Specifically, the ones involving the USF baseball and softball teams, both of whom are staging their own stirring — or stirrup-wearing — versions of March Madness.
The softball team (17-12) enters this weekend's Michele Smith Spring Break Tournament — to be held on campus and in Clearwater — on a 10-game win streak. The baseball team (12-6), in the midst of a stretch of five games in six days, has won five in a row entering this weekend's three-game home series against Army.
Not surprisingly, the softball team's turnaround began as the merciless stretch of its non-conference slate ended. Six of its first 18 games were against top-20 opponents. The Bulls went 1-5 in those contests, allowing an average of six earned runs per game.
They have surrendered only 14 total earned runs during their win streak, albeit against less-stringent opposition. Meantime, they've averaged 6.5 runs in that stretch, with Strawberry Crest High alumnus Mia Fung (.324, team-best five home runs) helping lead the offensive charge.
"All of us are just comfortable and playing," Fung said following Wednesday's 5-0 triumph against Maine, in which she hit her fourth home run in the last five contests. "Instead of worrying, we are playing and having fun with it."
The baseball team, while hitting only .287 during its win streak, has allowed three or fewer runs in four of those games. In last Friday's 3-2, 10-inning win against Central Michigan, left-handed ace Shane McClanahan threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out nine.
The following night, right-handed senior Peter Strzelecki allowed only three hits over seven scoreless innings, and struck out a career-high 12, in a 6-0 rout of the Chippewas.
McClanahan, who hasn't allowed an earned run in 24 2/3 innings this season, takes the mound Friday against Army. His 41 strikeouts are tied for fourth nationally, and he's one of only five pitchers in the country (minimum 19 IP) to not allow an earned run this year.