WHO: Villanova (23-19, 6-9) at USF (28-14, 11-4)
WHERE: USF baseball stadium
SERIES SCHEDULE: 7 p.m. Friday; 6 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The Bulls savored the sweet taste of a victory over the Gators, but head coach Lelo Prado wants them to stay hungry for what matters the most.
USF, fresh off Tuesday's 5-3 win at No. 2 Florida, gets back into Big East play at home 7 p.m. Friday against Villanova and there is plenty on the line in the three-game weekend series. The Bulls (28-14, 11-4) are in a three-way tie for the conference lead with 12 more league games left on their regular season schedule.
"Now we can't get too big-headed or cocky because we have to play a very good Villanova team," head coach Lelo Prado said. "They've got some quality arms that if you don't come out ready to play it's going to be a long weekend."
Villanova's staff features six pitchers with at least 20 strikeouts this season and it is led by right-hander Pat Young, projected to throw on Saturday, who has 42 Ks and a 3.79 earned run average.
The Wildcats (23-19, 6-9) head to Tampa on a three-game winning streak while averaging better than seven runs per contest.
"If we go out there without the right frame of mind, we'll get beat," Prado said. "We've got to take care of business and have too much to lose."
The Bulls certainly have a lot to build off of Tuesday's triumph that marked the program's first victory over the Gators since 2005. USF rolled into Gainesville extremely motivated, especially its senior group that included Andrew Longley, who hit two solo homers in the victory.
"When you have a chance to go out and compete against a great club, you have to perform and our guys did that," Prado said. "It's great not only for the kids, but for USF baseball."
Senior Matt Reed also answered the bell by allowing three runs (two earned) in 5 2/3 innings after Prado asked him to start one of the biggest games of the year.
"If you're going to win in college baseball, your upperclassmen have to take it and run with it," Prado said. "Right now our upperclassmen are doing that."
USF's leadership has made sure the Gator game quickly became an afterthought because the team wants to stay on the right track in chasing its main goal. The Bulls, picked to finish fourth in the league, want to win the program's first-ever Big East title and make a run in NCAA Regionals.
"The Florida game does not mean anything anymore if we don't come out and take care of business the rest of the way," Prado said.