FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
TAMPA, Fla. – On Friday, University of South Florida head coach Lelo Prado announced the release of the 2009 Bulls baseball schedule, a listing that includes five teams (eight games) that competed in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
USF’s 56-game schedule spans 22 teams from 11 conferences, with 40 games played in the state of Florida, 25 of which will be at USF’s Red McEwen Field in Tampa.
USF will begin the season with two tournaments in the state of Florida. The first is the Big East/ Big Ten Challenge in Clearwater, Fla., where the Bulls will face Michigan, who finished 2008 with a 46-14 record, good for best in the Big Ten.
“It’s definitely one of the tougher schedules we’ve had here at USF,” said Prado. “We open with the Big East/Big Ten Challenge, playing the best team in the Big Ten in Michigan, then we play Purdue and Indiana, two of their better teams in that league.
“It’s a plus for the Challenge to be in Clearwater, because it is more home games, really, for us. We love going to Clearwater, they do a great job over there. We open the season with the Big East / Big 10 Challenge there, then we end the season with the conference tournament there. It’s a great way for us to go out to Clearwater and see all of our Clearwater boosters,” said Prado.
USF will then go to play in Fort Myers, Fla. in the Florida Gulf Coast Classic, taking on Boston College, Samford, Florida Gulf Coast and Towson over a four-day span.
The Bulls home opener is set for March 6, the eighth game of the season, which begins a three-game home series with Marshall (Conference USA) at Red McEwen Field. After the Friday-Sunday set with the Thundering Herd, USF faces UCF, another Conference USA opponent, for a mid-week two-day set at home on March 10-11.
USF will play three 2008 NCAA Regional participants in Eastern Illinois, Oklahoma and Bethune-Cookman as they host the Bulls Baseball Classic March 13-15. The Bulls will then travel to Tallahassee, Fla., to face FAMU for a two-game series March 17-18.
“Right off the bat, we play Michigan, FIU, FAU, and Florida. Those teams are good, and Bethune-Cookman is a regional team every year. Then in conference we have St. John’s, Louisville and Notre Dame. Those are the three teams, along with Rutgers, that everyone is shooting for,” said Prado.
March 20-22, the Bulls will open BIG EAST play against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Red McEwen Field, before heading to Daytona Beach, Fla., to take on Bethune-Cookman for the second time on March 25. B-CU is one of the five schools that USF plays in 2009 that advanced to the NCCA Tournament. After Bethune-Cookman, the Bulls will face another perennial NCAA Tournament team, the Stetson Hatters on March 24.
USF has an advantage of not having to leave the state of Florida until March 27-29, when they travel to Storrs, Conn., to take on conference rival Connecticut.
“I don’t want to leave the state of Florida, that’s the reason I came back home,” said Prado. “We shouldn’t have to leave Florida too many times, except for conference games, or a tournament we want to go to. We shouldn’t have to leave the state to play anybody. There is great baseball in Florida and every team here is good. It’s great for our schedule and great for our fans.”
USF will host FAU for one game on April 1, before Pittsburgh comes to Tampa for a three game series April 3-5.
The Bulls then head out on their longest road trip of the season, where they will take on the Jacksonville Dolphins in Jacksonville, Fla., April 7-8., then head straight to the Nation’s capitol, Washington D.C., to face Georgetown April 10-12.
USF will then play host to FIU for a Tuesday/ Wednesday series on April 14-15, before heading back up north to face Villanova in Pennsylvania (May 17-19). Villanova finished 2008 with a 13-4 record at home, which was the third most home wins among all BIG EAST teams.
The Bulls arrive back at home and take on the Florida Gators on April 22. The Gators finished the 2008 campaign at a 34-24 mark, but the Bulls will be looking to avenge losses to the in-state foe in back-to-back seasons. The Bulls are just 23-45 against the Gators, but will look to turn the tables in 2009.
Next up for the Bulls will be West Virginia the following weekend for three games April 24-26. That week, the Bulls play a home-and-home with UCF on Tuesday and Wednesday April 28 and 29. The two game series against UCF wraps up a busy April for the Bulls where they play on all but eight days; and travel to four different cities, including the Northeast two separate times.
The team opens the month of May against the squad that defeated them twice in last year’s BIG EAST Championships, the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats were the second-best team in the league in, both, the regular season and the BIG EAST Championship.
The Bulls face the University of North Florida twice in the month of May (May 5 and 12) at home. Sandwiched between the North Florida games is a three game trip to South Bend, Ind., where the Bulls will take on Notre Dame May 8-10. In 2008, the Bulls ended the regular season with four- straight victories over ND, including the first game of the BIG EAST Championship.
USF wraps up its regular season schedule on the road against the 2008 BIG EAST Championship winners, the Louisville Cardinals May 14-16. Head Coach Lelo Prado’s former team finished 2008 with a record of 41-21.
“It’s a great schedule and we have to be ready for 56 contests,” said Prado.
The 2009 BIG EAST Championship will be held May 19-23 in Clearwater, Fla. at Brighthouse Networks Field. NCAA championships begin with Regionals (May 29-June 1) and Super Regionals (June 5-8) at campus sites, which lead to the College World Series held at Omaha’s Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium June 13-23/24 in Nebraska.