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Baseball team recovers after bad loss to Army

By ROD GIPSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2001


TAMPA -- Eddie Cardieri was not pleased with his team March 19. In fact, he was downright disappointed. And Cardieri, USF's baseball coach for 16 years, had his reasons.

Go back two weeks. USF had just come off back-to-back wins at Tulane; the same Tulane that is nationally ranked by Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America and Baseball Weekly; the same Tulane that hadn't lost a Conference USA series at home since 1999.

So after opening the three-game set in New Orleans with a 12-1 loss to the Green Wave, the Bulls responded with 5-4 and 9-3 victories.

So with that momentum intact and returning home to face lowly Army on the 19th, how did USF respond?

With a 5-2 loss.

"I don't know if we were listless or not," Cardieri said. "But we were poor at the plate. We had terrible approaches. We left 13 runners on base. Our at-bats cost us that game."

But as dark as things appeared just a 1 1/2 weeks ago, the Bulls have found their silver lining. The Army loss has given way to a four-game winning streak, a sweep of Alabama-Birmingham and a spot near the top of the Conference USA standings.

At 5-1 in C-USA, the Bulls trail only Houston (6-0) and are a game better than third-place Tulane (4-2). And improving their record looks good with last-place Memphis (1-5, 13-10) coming to Red McEwen Field this weekend for a three-game series.

With the winning streak, the Bulls have climbed back to .500 at 14-14, the fifth time this year they have been at .500. The Bulls are trying to continue that momentum in an attempt to earn their first league crown since 1996 and first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1997.

Cardieri's squad might be in position to do that if its solid pitching continues to hold up along with its improved offense.

Last weekend's rotation of John Gorham, John Vigue and Jon Uhl was solid as they swept the Blazers. Gorham, a junior, threw seven innings with six strikeouts and no walks.

Vigue, a senior, went eight innings, had seven strikeouts and no walks and moved to No. 10 in career wins with 19.

Uhl, a redshirt freshman, earned his second win of the season Sunday with 6 2/3 innings of work. He allowed four singles and had six strikeouts in the 5-1 win.

Offensively, seniors Ben Drawdy, Mike Eylward and Dan Boyd continue to carry the load, but Myron Leslie, Chris Cuccia, Rick Steghauer and Mike Barclay have increased their productivity.

Leslie, a freshman, is batting .349 with seven doubles while Cuccia and Eylward have a team-high 24 RBI. Steghauer had three hits, including a home run in the first win over UAB, and Barclay continues his hot streak in league play with a .455 average.

Drawdy and Boyd are batting .371 and .355, respectively, placing each in the top 11 in the conference.

Not bad for a team looking for answers 10 days ago.

"We're not playing on all cylinders yet, but we're improving and getting better," Cardieri said. "We're better."

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