FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
TAMPA- University of South Florida head coach Lelo Prado announced the 2011 USF baseball schedule on Monday, a slate that includes seven 2010 NCAA Tournament participants, seven that have appeared in 2011 preseason rankings and nine in-state opponents.
“This, once again, is a great schedule,” said Prado, who begins his fifth season as coach of the Bulls. “I could easily schedule 40 wins a year but that is not what we’re about. We are trying to win a BIG EAST Championship and move on to a regional. The only way to be the best is to play the best.”
The Bulls will be tested by a challenging 27-game BIG EAST slate and will also face Sunshine State foes Florida, Miami, Florida A&M, Central Florida, Stetson, Jacksonville, North Florida and Bethune-Cookman.
“When you have the Florida’s and Miami’s of the world on your schedule along with all the strong Florida programs, you don’t have to go far to play great competition,” added Prado.
The Bulls will not leave the state of Florida during the non-conference portion of their schedule and only play two out-of-state teams.
For the second consecutive season, the Bulls will open the season at Florida’s McKethan Stadium with a three-game set against the Florida Gators, who begin the year as the No. 1 team in America in multiple preseason rankings. The Gators will make a return trip to Tampa on Wednesday, Mar. 9 for a mid-week contest.
After the opening Florida series, USF will return to Tampa for the grand opening of the new baseball stadium with a weekend series against Elon on Feb. 25-27, marking the first meeting between the two programs.
Following the home opener, the Bulls will collide with Miami in Tampa at George M. Steinbrenner Field as part of the second annual Florida Four on March 1. It will mark the first of two mid-week clashes with the Hurricanes, who made their 38th consecutive NCAA appearance in 2010. USF will make a trip to Miami for a mid-week tilt against the Canes on April 27.
Starting with the Elon series, USF will play 11 of their next 12 games at home with the lone exception being the Florida Four contest against Miami. The Bulls welcome FAMU (Mar 4-6) and Evansville (March 11-12) for three-game sets during the span and will take on Bethune-Cookman (March 17-20) in a home and away four game series. Thursday and Friday night’s contest will take place in Daytona with the remaining two games to be played in Tampa on Saturday and Sunday,
The Bulls 27-game BIG EAST schedule will consist of four home series and five road series.
“This is going to be a great year in the BIG EAST. There are so many good teams it will be a great challenge for our young men. The BIG EAST is as strong as it has ever been and will be an exciting season,” Prado said.
USF will open up BIG EAST Conference play at home with West Virginia on March 25-27. The other home series are Rutgers (April 8-10), St. John’s (April 29-May 1) and Pittsburgh (May 19-21) in the season finale. The road lineup includes trips to Villanova (April 1-3), Seton Hall (April 15-17), Louisville (April 21-23), Connecticut (May 7-9) and Notre Dame (May 19-21).
The BIG EAST road will lead to the 2011 BIG EAST Championships, which will once again be held at Clearwater’s Bright House Field, spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Clearwater Thrashers. The tournament is set for May 25-29
The Bulls return arguably the top pitching tandem in the BIG EAST in seniors LHP Andrew Barbosa and RHP Randy Fontanez, who both turned down professional contracts to return for their senior seasons. In addition, all but two starters in the field return for the 2011 campaign. The team features 17 upperclassman and returns eight of their top 10 hitters.
“We are looking forward to a challenging schedule but with the experienced group of men we return, we feel that they will be up for it,” added Prado.
Friday and Saturday night home games will be at 7 p.m. and the first pitch for Sunday games will take place at 1 p.m., however times are subject to change. Weekday games are slated for 7 p.m. starts with times subject to change.