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USF part of state contingent

The Bulls get in the NCAA baseball tournament with a 32-29 record as one of a record nine state teams in the 64-team field.

By GREG AUMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 22, 2001


In the half an hour it took to unveil the NCAA baseball tournament bracket on television Monday afternoon, South Florida coach Eddie Cardieri had a season's worth of ups and downs.

"I ran the whole gamut of emotions," Cardieri said from his Tampa home after watching the selections of many teams his Bulls had beaten. "I felt pretty good, then not so good. It was the full swing of emotions, but when they put us up there, I paused and said, "Oh, my God, we're in.' "

He wasn't the only Florida coach feeling that way. Nine state schools made the 64-team field, breaking the record of eight set last year.

"I think it speaks volumes about our state," said Cardieri, whose team played six of the state schools and defeated four. "When you're playing Miami and Florida and UCF in the middle of the week, it's only going to make you better. This is a great state for baseball."

Of 34 at-large berths, one school had a record worse than the Bulls (32-29), but USF survived on its strength of schedule. The Bulls had five wins against Notre Dame, Tulane and Central Florida, all ranked in the top 10, but Cardieri said his team clinched the berth with a strong showing in the Conference USA tournament last weekend.

"That did it for us," said Cardieri, whose team lost to Tulane in the title game. "I thought we had no prayer unless we played deep into our conference tournament. I'm so excited for this team. I've been to these things before, but I really wanted this group to go to a regional. They deserve it."

USF, making its first appearance since 1997, plays Winthrop (46-14-1) on Friday in Wilson, N.C. Leading the state's entourage is Miami, ranked No. 1 in all three major polls. The Hurricanes are one of the top eight seeds, so the College World Series is the only time they would have to play another top-eight team. Miami plays Bucknell in a region that also includes Florida and Stetson.

Gators coach Andy Lopez had thought he needed a strong weekend at the SEC tournament and that the conference might get six berths. The Gators lost their first two games but made the field as a No. 2 seed, along with seven other SEC teams.

"I think that's very just," Lopez said of the SEC's contingent. "I told my team, "You're not going to go to a regional that's tougher than what you just went through in Birmingham.' "

Florida State, whose ranking has dropped from the top three to between seventh and 13th in the past month, did not get a top-eight seed. If they advance, the Seminoles would have to travel to a Super Regional, in Athens, Ga., on June 1.

The Seminoles, making their 24th straight NCAA appearance, host Bethune-Cookman on Friday. B-CC earned an automatic berth with its third straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference crown.

"The second half of the season is what it's all about," Seminoles coach Mike Martin said.

Central Florida is a No. 1 seed but on the road in Columbia, S.C. The Knights open against Princeton (22-23), one of three automatic qualifiers with losing records.

Also representing the state are Florida International, a No. 3 seed that opens against UC-Santa Barbara in South Bend, Ind., and Jacksonville, the No. 3 seed in FSU's region.

Each region is double elimination. Sixteen teams advance to eight Super Regionals on June 1-3. The winner of each best-of-three series earns a trip to the College World Series, which begins June 8 in Omaha, Neb.

Also, Florida State's John-Ford Griffin and Mike Martin were named ACC player and coach of the year, respectively. Griffin, a junior outfielder, led the league in batting (.458), hits (103), doubles (25) and total bases (182). Martin, who guided the Seminoles to a fourth ACC regular-season title, also was selected coach of the year in 1996, '98 and '99.

DIVISION II: Tampa opens play in the College World Series on at 2 p.m. Saturday against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. The Spartans qualified for the double-elimination tournament at Montgomery, Ala., by defeating Saint Leo in Saturday's region final.

Other colleges

TENNIS: Tennessee defeated No. 1 seed Stanford 4-2 in the Division I men's championships at Stone Mountain, Ga.

Stanford's defending singles champion, Alex Kim, had not recovered from dehydration from Saturday's first round and sat out.

No. 2 seed UCLA also lost, 4-3 to SMU.

In other matches, TCU defeated Texas A&M 4-0, and host Georgia defeated Duke 4-3. Tennessee faces TCU and Georgia faces SMU today in the semifinals.

Late Sunday, Williams (Mass.) College defeated California-Santa Cruz 4-1 to win the Division III men's title in Greencastle, Ind. Williams also won the women's championship over Trinity 6-3 in San Antonio, Texas.

FOOTBALL: A police report said Oklahoma starting cornerback Michael Thompson was driving his 1994 pickup truck at 70 mph, 20 over the speed limit, when it veered across a lane of traffic, left the road and smashed into a tree. Thompson, critically injured in the May3 wreck, was released from the hospital May11. The trooper investigating the crash did not detect evidence of alcohol or drugs, and Thompson, 20, was not tested.

Also, Jesse Branch, who retired in August as associate athletic director at Arkansas, will take over as coach at Henderson (Ark.) State.

SOFTBALL: Krista Unger pitched a two-hitter and Kelsey Duckworth had three hits as Nebraska-Omaha beat Lewis 4-0 to win the NCAA Division II championship at Salem, Va.

- Staff writer Brian Landman and Times wires contributed to this report.

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