WHO: USF (1-2) at No. 9 FSU (4-0)
WHEN: 4 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium, Tallahassee
WATCH ONLINE: ESPN3 (Saturday and Sunday)
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The Bulls will gain NCAA tournament-type experience this weekend at one of the most difficult places to play in all of college baseball.
USF starts a three-game set with No. 9 Florida State 4 p.m. Friday at Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee. The Seminoles (4-0) have the highest winning percent in Division I since 2000 and have won at least a share of the ACC Atlantic Division title in each of the past six seasons.
"If we go to regionals somewhere it's either going to be Florida State, Florida or Miami. You have to learn how to play at those places," USF head coach Lelo Prado said. "It's a good experience for the young guys and even some of the older guys."
USF hasn't faced FSU since NCAA regionals in 2002 when the Seminoles knocked the Bulls out of the NCAA tournament with a 13-6 victory. The programs haven't met in the regular season since 1989 when USF took three out of four from the Seminoles.
"It's a great challenge. We knew going into the season that this is a big weekend to see where we're at," Prado said. "We have to play a lot better than last weekend."
The Bulls went 1-2 at the Big East-Big Ten Challenge on opening weekend and Prado is looking for his pitching staff to regroup after giving up 19 earned runs.
"We have to get our pitching down right and we have to keep swinging the bats like we did last weekend," Prado said.
Senior Joey Lovecchio will start either Friday or Saturday after giving the Bulls five quality innings in a 20-2 win over Purdue last Saturday. The right-hander gave up two unearned runs on five hits and struck out five batters.
"We told him before the game that we needed a big outing from him and he gave it to us. It's probably the best I've seen Joe throw," Prado said.
USF Bats Make Noise on Opening Weekend
Prado said before the season that USF would be better on offense and the Bulls started off their 2013 campaign by hitting .342 as a team.
Senior Chris Norton made the Big East Honor Roll by going 6-for-10 with a double, two RBIs and three runs scored. The Bulls also got a lot of production from redshirt freshman Nik Alfonso, who went 5-for-9 with a double and six RBIs.
"I'm glad to see when kids practice as hard as they do that they get some success," Prado said. "Both of those guys coming into the weekend weren't going to play a whole lot. They ended up playing a lot and did some good things."
Alfonso was happy to actually get real at-bats after sitting out all of last season. The last time the utility man played in a game was in 2011 when he won team MVP honors at Tampa Catholic.
"What that one year off did for me was make me really hungry," Alfonso said. "I was excited to get into the lineup and not just be part of a baseball team, but make an impact as a player."
The Bulls play a single game at UCF on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m. before beginning an eight-game home stand. The Bulls start their run at USF baseball stadium March 1-3 against Toledo. USF faces Boston College March 5-6 and hosts Valparaiso March 8-10.