Bulls baseball falls to UConn, 4-2
After waiting a day through steady rains, USF and Connecticut got to play Friday morning in the Big East tournament, but the Bulls might as well have been swinging umbrellas. Held to five hits -- three in the first eight innings -- the Bulls fell 4-2 to the Huskies, falling into the loser's bracket at Bright House Field in Clearwater.
The Bulls (33-24) are now scheduled to play West Virginia today at 4 p.m. in an elimination game, and would need to win three straight games to reach the championship game. Connecticut (35-23) advances to Saturday's semifinals, where the Huskies would need one win in two games against the USF-West Virginia winner to advance to the title game. (UPDATE: The first pitch is more likely to be 5 p.m. or later, as the St. John's-Notre Dame hasn't started yet because of ... more rain.)
USF coach Lelo Prado said his team didn't have the right mindset at the plate, and they'll need to produce this afternoon, facing a West Virginia team that scored 20 runs Thursday against Pittsburgh.
"We can't worry about getting back at UConn. We have to worry about West Virginia," Prado said. "They're swinging the bats. How many runs did they score (Thursday), 20 or something like that? I don't think we've scored 20 in the last three weeks."
The Bulls were held to three runs or less for the fourth time in five games, all losses. After hitting into just 14 double plays in their first 56 games, the Bulls grounded into three Friday, scuttling scoring opportunities in the second, seventh and eighth.
"It's got to be perfect when you're not putting any offense together," Prado said. "It's one of those days where it wasn't meant to be. We've got to have better at-bats."
USF starter Shawn Sanford held UConn to three hits in the first seven innings, but ran into trouble in the eighth. A two-out walk to Nemeth, who had a solo home run in the sixth, set up a double by George Springer, and with runners at second and third, Sanford threw a wild pitch that allowed Nemeth to score. Peter Fatse followed with an RBI single to put the Huskies up 4-1, chasing Sanford from the game.
"I was a little tired early on, but got into a groove and started pitching really well," Sanford said. "In the eighth, I got the first two outs and felt the strongest I've felt all day. I just couldn't close, couldn't get the last out there. It really stinks that I couldn't close the eighth."
USF was held to three hits in seven innings by Huskies starter Matt McDonald, making just his third Big East start because ace John Folino was sidelined with an elbow injury. The Bulls' only run came in the fifth, when freshman Sam Mende doubled and scored on a single by Ryan Lockwood.
The Bulls loaded the bases in the ninth off closer David Erickson on two walks and a single, and Lockwood got an RBI single to cut the lead to 4-2. With the bases still loaded, second baseman Peter Brotons grounded out to first base to end the game.
USF will start sophomore Derrick Stultz (5-4, 4.16 ERA) against the Mountaineers -- USF got a three-game sweep against West Virginia, scoring at least eight runs in each game.
-- Prado tweaked his batting order again, with Junior Carlin getting his second straight game leading off. Lockwood, mired in a 1-for-16 slump, was dropped from seventh to eighth in the order, with catcher Trey Manz sixth and Mende seventh.
-- USF defensive end George Selvie will be No. 1 in ESPN.com's rundown of the top 30 players in the Big East. Blogger Brian Bennett unveiled Cincy QB Tony Pike as No. 2 today.