Tampa - For the second straight year, the USF Bulls will open their 2013 season with the Big East-Big Ten Challenge. Day one will be a long one for the Bulls, who play a doubleheader against the Louisville Cardinals and the Purdue Boilermakers at Brighthouse Field in Clearwater.
The Bulls' weekend begins with a familiar opponent, Louisville. The Cardinals opened the season as the No. 4 ranked team in the were a late addition to USF's weekend schedule, filling in for Michigan after the Wolverines dropped off the schedule last moment. The matchup will be the first meeting between the two teams since USF knocked Louisville out of the Big East Tournament, 6-2, last May. The two teams played each other four times last season, both teams taking two victories; Louisville took two of three against USF in the regular season in Tampa before the Bulls won the final matchup in Clearwater.
USF enters the season after receiving votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association poll. It is the first year since 2010 that the Bulls have started the season receiving votes in the NFCBWA poll. The Bulls were picked to finish fifth in the Big East preseason poll behind Louisville, St. John's, Notre Dame and Connecticut. The Bulls are looking to build off a 38-22 season that saw USF play in its first Big East Championship in program history.
Louisville opened the regular season 19th in the NFCBWA poll and 4th in the Baseball America poll. The 4th overall ranking by Baseball America is the highest ranking for the Cardinals in school history. After a trip to the NCAA Regional last season, the Cardinals were picked to win the Big East in the preseason coaches vote and four Cardinals, Adam Engel, Jeff Gardner, Jeff Thompson, Jared Ruxer, were named to the Preseason All-Big East team.
Purdue opened its season on a high note, coming away with an 11-8 win over Connecticut on Friday afternoon. The Boilers are the defending Big Ten regular season and tournament champion. The boys from Indiana are looking to build off a program-record 45 win season that saw Purdue host an NCAA Regional, finishing the season nationally ranked. The Boilermakers are trying to figure out how to fill in some holes after losing seven starting position players and their top four players. Purdue starts the year receiving votes in the NCBWA preseason poll.
On Saturday, the Cardinals will throw Thompson (9-4, 4.00 ERA) against USF's Nick Gonzalez (4-1, 2.63 ERA). The matchup will profile the hard-throwing Thompson, who led the conference with nine victories last season, against the lefty specialist Gonzalez. The game is scheduled for a 2:00 pm first pitch at Brighthouse Stadium.
The matchup between USF and Purdue will follow the conclusion of the Bulls' game against Louisville. The pairing will feature Bulls' senior Joey Lovecchio (8-4, 4.78 ERA) against Purdue's freshman Jordan Minch. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 pm at Brighthouse Stadium in Clearwater.