After taking last week off for exams, the USF softball team will host the Big East Tournament at the USF Softball Stadium in Tampa. The Bulls come in as the second seed, finishing the regular season with a 40-14 record and an 18-3 mark in conference play, only a half-game behind Notre Dame. (Since the two teams didn't play each other in the regular season, we don't know if the Bulls could have claimed the top seed if they hadn't had to abandon the second game of a doubleheader against Seton Hall because of travel concerns.)
The Bulls' NCAA Tournament positioning is pretty good, with an RPI of 43 and most of their losses far in the rear-view mirror. Following that brutal 1-9 stretch in late February, USF has gone 34-4 the rest of the way. Of course, winning the tournament on their home field and claiming the automatic bid would remove whatever suspense is left.
That won't be too easy, though. Louisville and Notre Dame are right at USF's level -- the Cardinals might actually be better than them -- and the tournament is single-elimination, which makes upsets a distinct possibility. Here's the schedule:
QUARTERFINALS - THURSDAY, MAY 9
(4) DePaul vs. (5) Georgetown, 10:00am
(1) Notre Dame vs. (8) Seton Hall, 12:30pm
(3) Louisville vs. (6) Syracuse, 4:00pm
(2) USF vs. (7) Providence, 6:30pm
SEMIFINALS - FRIDAY, MAY 10
DePaul-Georgetown winner vs. Notre Dame-Seton Hall winner, 4:00pm
Louisville-Syracuse winner vs. USF-Providence winner, 6:30pm
CHAMPIONSHIP - SATURDAY, MAY 11
Semifinal winners, 4:00pm
That championship game will be on ESPN2.
Also, last night the conference announced its players of the year and its all-conference teams. Sara Nevins, who is a boss, won the Big East Pitcher of the Year award after finishing with a 22-5 record, a tiny 1.06 ERA, and 230 strikeouts in 178 1/3 innings of work. She was joined on the all-Big East first team by Kourtney Salvarola, who led the team with a .360 batting average, 13 home runs, and a monster OPS of 1.163. Kenshyra Jackson (10 homers, .296 average, .941 OPS) made the second team, and Lindsey Richardson (11-4 record, 1.20 ERA, 186 strikeouts, opponent batting average of .145) was named to the third team.