USC Beaufort

USCB eyes fresh start at Sun Conference baseball tournament

For all its accomplishments over the past three seasons -- 99 wins and a trip to the NAIA World Series Opening Round last May among them -- the USC Beaufort baseball team hasn't done one thing.

The Sand Sharks have never won a game in the Sun Conference tournament.

They're grateful to have a chance to change that this week, as USCB will open the double-elimination tournament at 11 a.m. today against top-ranked Embry-Riddle at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla.

"The bottom line is if you ain't in it, you can't win it, and that's our goal," USCB coach Rick Sofield said. "I'm very proud. We've had some bumps in the road. We've had some adversity that we haven't been accustomed to."

Going into the final two weeks of the regular season, the chances of the Sand Sharks getting back to the conference tournament looked slim. They needed a three-game sweep at Florida Memorial and some help from others in the league to have a shot.

Everything fell into place, resulting in a four-way tie for the last two playoff spots, and USCB earned the No. 6 seed via tiebreaker.

"I think sneaking in kind of helps us a little bit," outfielder Ty Main said. "People might be looking at us as an underdog and whatnot, but we're looking at it as everyone's going in with a fresh start."

The reward is a first-round rematch with the Eagles (43-8), who swept a doubleheader after USCB had won the series opener to take two of three on USCB's home field in March.

One of USCB's losses in that series was in extra innings, though, and right-hander Dexter Price, who will start today, held the Eagles to two runs over eight innings in a 2-0 loss.

"We respect them, but I don't think we're intimidated and I don't think we're afraid of anybody," Sofield said. "We had them two out of three here. We have proven on any given day we're just as good as anybody out there. We've just got to go out and relax and prove it."

Embry-Riddle has already clinched a berth in the NAIA World Series Opening Round by winning the regular-season title, but another bid will go to the winner -- or the runner-up, if the Eagles also win the tournament title -- of this week's tournament.

The Sand Sharks figure a win today would be crucial to their hopes of stealing that bid.

"The pressure is more on them than it is us, because they're expected to win this game," Sofield said. "If you're going to get what you want, you've got to beat good people sooner or later."

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SUN CONFERENCE BASEBALL TOURNAMENT

First round

No. 1 Embry-Riddle vs. No. 6 USC Beaufort, 11 a.m.

No. 2 St. Thomas vs. No. 5 Webber International, 3 p.m.

No. 3 Southeastern vs. No. 4 SCAD Savannah, 7 p.m.

  • Live audio, live stats and a live chat will be available for every game through the Sun Conference website at www.thesunconference.com
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