FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
TAMPA – University of South Florida head coach Lelo Prado announced the release of the 2010 USF baseball schedule, a slate that includes five 2009 NCAA Tournament participants (11 games) and seven in-state opponents.
Prado also announced that, the Bulls will play a portion of their home schedule away from Red McEwen Field at George Steinbrenner Field and the University of Tampa Baseball Stadium to accommodate the construction set to begin in early April.
"2010 is going to be an exciting year for USF baseball," said Prado. "This schedule is going to challenge us every time we take the field right from the beginning when we go to Gainesville."
The Bulls will be tested by the challenging 27-game BIG EAST schedule and will also face Sunshine State rivals Florida, Miami, Florida Atlantic, Stetson, Jacksonville, North Florida and UCF.
The Bulls will kick off 2010 by heading north on Interstate-75 to Gainesville to face Florida in a three-game set on Feb. 19-21. The Gators will make a return trip to Tampa on April 21 for a mid-week tilt at George Steinbrenner Field.
USF will then participate in the 2010 BIG EAST – Big Ten Challenge in Clearwater for the second consecutive year. Last year’s Challenge, which featured eight programs from the BIG EAST and all of the Big Ten baseball-playing institutions, was very well attended, including a final-day attendance of 5,000 for the six games played at the Naimoli Complex.
On Friday, February 26, the first day of the 2010 Challenge, USF will take on Ohio State University at 4:30 p.m. at Al Lang Field. The meeting will mark the eighth meeting and first since 1997 between the Bulls and Buckeyes, with USF holding a 4-3 edge.
The Bulls’ second contest will be under the lights of Bright House Stadium on Saturday against the Fighting Illini of Illinois. The Bulls will look to snap a four-game losing streak dating back to 2004 and even the all-time series at four apiece as the Illini have taken four of the seven all-time meetings.
Prado and his Bulls will wrap up the Challenge on Sunday against familiar opponent Michigan at 1:00 p.m. at the Naimoli Complex. They will have a chance to avenge a loss suffered in the inaugural BIG EAST-Big Ten Challenge when they dropped a 6-5 decision to the Wolverines in the opening game.
Tickets for the second BIG EAST-Big Ten Baseball Challenge, hosted by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, are available online at www.BigTenBIGEASTChallenge.com.
After the Challenge, the Bulls will collide with Miami in Tampa at George M. Steinbrenner Field as part of the Inaugural Florida Four Tournament on March 2. It will mark the first of two mid-week clashes with the Hurricanes, who made their 37th consecutive NCAA appearance in 2009. USF will make the trip to Miami on April 28.
Following the Florida Four, the Bulls will make the trek to Norman, Okla., March 4-7 for four games including a pair of contests against the Sooners, another 2009 NCAA tournament team. The Bulls will also take on Stephen F. Austin and Western Illinois during their stay in Norman.
After returning from Norman, USF will stay in Florida for the rest of the month hosting a pair of mid-week games against Jacksonville (March 9-10), and then host a pair of weekend series against Eastern Illinois (March 12-14) and Mercer (March 19-21).
USF will get another crack at Ohio State in March, as the Bulls and Buckeyes will meet on the 24th in a final tune-up before BIG EAST conference play begins at Red McEwen Field.
Due to the recently announced construction of a new USF baseball stadium, all home games played after the Notre Dame series (March 26-28) will be played at either George Steinbrenner Stadium or University of Tampa’s Spartan Stadium.
The new baseball stadium will remain on the same footprint as the existing field, but will be realigned in order to create a plaza and ticketing area that is shared with the new softball stadium. Current plans have the softball field located south of the baseball stadium.
"We are very pleased with the progress and design of the new baseball stadium ," said USF Executive Associate Director of Athletics Bill McGillis.’ It is on a fast-track, and we have every intention of having it completed in time for the first pitch of 2011. We are anticipating a spectacular facility – a very intimate setting with team and spectator amenities that will be first class in every way. There is not doubt it will be one of the premier college baseball stadiums in the entire country."
The baseball stadium is expected to include new step-down team dugouts, bullpens, covered batting cages, multiple party pavilions, a press box and a 1,500 seat spectator grandstand with a shade canopy, an elevated, shaded entertainment or hospitality deck and service amenities. The overall capacity of the stadium is expected to exceed 3,000 and is being designed to accommodate additional seating that will enable USF to host NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals.
"We are very happy to accommodate the construction plans for the new stadium by moving to games to Steinbrenner Stadium," added Prado. "I want to personally the thank New York Yankees, Felix Lopez (Senior Vice President with the New York Yankees), Mark Newman (senior VP of baseball operations of the New York Yankees) along with the University of Tampa because of their help it allows us to begin construction of our facility and have it completed for the 2011 season."
The 27-game BIG EAST schedule consists of home series against Notre Dame (March 26-28), Georgetown (April 9-11), Villanova (April 23-25), Seton Hall (April 30-May 2) and Connecticut (14-16). The road slate consists of trips to Cincinnati (April 1-3), Rutgers (April 16-18), St. John’s (May 7-9) and will close out the 2010 season with a trip to Pittsburgh (May 20-22) for a three game set in the Steel City.
USF will host home series against Georgetown, Villanova and Connecticut at Steinbrenner Stadium, along with a mid-week match-up against UCF on April 6. UT Spartan Stadium will serve as the Bulls’ home for the Seton Hall series and April 27 game against Florida Gulf Coast.
Times for most home weekend series are as follows: Friday and Saturday night games will be at 7 p.m. and the first pitch for Sunday games will take place at 1 p.m however times may very.
Weekday games are slated for a 7 p.m. start, however times are subject to change. Be sure to check GoUSFBulls.com regularly for any schedule changes and updates.
Earlier this year, the BIG EAST Conference announced the return of the BIG EAST Championships to Clearwater at Bright House Field. It has been chosen as the site of the 2010 and 2011 BIG EAST Conference Baseball Championships.
Bright House Field served as the venue for the 2006, 2008 and 2009 BIG EAST Championships. The 2010 BIG EAST Conference Baseball Championship will be played May 26-30 (Wednesday through Sunday), with the top eight teams in the regular season standings qualifying. The 2011 conference tournament will take place May 25-29. The winner of the BIG EAST Championship receives the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
The championship game of the 2010 BIG EAST tournament is scheduled to be televised live on ESPNU.
The Bulls lost just five players from a 2009 ball club that went 18-9 in the BIG EAST en route to a second place finish, just a half game back of regular and tournament champion, Louisville. The 2009 BIG EAST Coach of the Year, Lelo Prado, enters his fourth year at USF with a vision to take his program to next level.
2009 Freshmen All-Americans Sam Mende and Todd Brazeal headline a solid core of returners, and the Bulls also bring back their ace in Randy Fontanez, who went 7-3 in 13 starts last season. 2009 BIG EAST Batting Champion Junior Carlin and 2008 Freshman of the Year Ryan Lockwood, also return for the 2010 season.