Bulls lose 7-0 lead, fall 8-7 in Big East tourney
CLEARWATER -- USF jumped out to a 7-0 lead on Connecticut, then gave up six runs in the fifth and saw the Huskies rally for an 8-7 win on a walkoff wild pitch in the Big East tournament Thursday night at Bright House Field.
USF (36-21) now has to beat Rutgers on Friday, then beat the Huskies twice on Saturday to earn a spot in Sunday's conference championship game. UConn (32-26), the eighth seed in the tournament, swept by USF in the regular season, gets today off and needs just one win Saturday to make the finals.
USF errors factored in both UConn's tying run in the eighth and the winning run in the ninth. USF opened the ninth with an error on a line drive to rightfielder Anthony Diaz, putting UConn's Stanley Paul on second base. With one out, Paul got to third on a wild pitch, and the Bulls intentionally walked the bases loaded. Reliever Jordan Strittmatter threw a second wild pitch and Paul scored the winning run without even a throw to the plate.
"It starts on the mound. We walked two, hit a guy. You're up 7-0, you have to finish the job," coach Lelo Prado said. "It's just disappointing. We just gave that game away. ... What's killed us all year, the wild pitches, the passed balls, that hurt us again tonight. ... You can't have that. We've done that all year, and in close games and in tournaments, that'll kill you. It killed us again tonight."
The Bulls led 2-0 in the fourth when they struck for four runs on three straight doubles, all with two outs. Alex Mendez brought in two runs, then scored on a double by James Ramsay, who came in on another double by Jimmy Falla for a 6-0 lead.
USF led 7-0 and had starter Nick Gonzalez cruising until the fifth inning, when he loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter. Billy Ferriter brought in two runs with a single, then T.J. Mazzilli brought in another run, with two coming in on a Vinny Siena single misplayed by Ramsay in centerfield. UConn tied the game in the eighth inning on Jon Testani's sacrifice fly off Strittmatter.
It's an upside-down bracket after two days -- the tournament's two lowest seeds, Notre Dame and Connecticut, are in Saturday's semifinals and each need one win in two tries to reach Sunday's final. Louisville, the tournament's top seed and the league's regular-season champ, was eliminated Thursday after its second loss in as many days.