Bulls fall 7-2 to UConn in Big East opener
CLEARWATER -- USF swept a three-game series with Connecticut just two weeks ago, but the Bulls weren't as fortunate Wednesday in the Big East tournament, giving up 14 hits in a 7-2 loss to the Huskies at Bright House Field.
Fourth-seeded USF (34-21) had held UConn to a combined five runs in three wins in Tampa, but were unable to shut down the fifth-seeded Huskies on Wednesday, sending them into an elimination game against eighth-seeded Pittsburgh on Thursday at 5 p.m.
"In a tournament, in a tight game, you've got to get a key hit here and there," said coach Lelo Prado, whose team had 10 hits but stranded 14 runners. "They did and we didn't. That's the reason. Give them credit. We have to come tomorrow and bounce back, hopefully get the key hits."
USF was unable to capitalize on opportunities -- they had runners at first and third and no outs in the fifth, but lost the lead runner in a rundown after a bunt and didn't score; USF also left the bases loaded in the eighth and stranded two more in the ninth.
"Look at the numbers. They don't lie. We left a lot of guys on base," Prado said. "When you do that, there's a good chance for disaster and everything has to be perfect. It wasn't today. They played a lot better than they did that weekend. I knew they would play a lot better."
The Bulls got into trouble with the game's first batter, as Billy Ferriter walked, then scored on two Bulls throwing errors. Ferriter got to second on a throwing error by Barbosa, then scored when catcher Blake Sydeski's throw to third on a steal attempt went into left field.
Sydeski had an RBI single to cut UConn's lead to 2-1 in the third, but the Huskies scored twice in the fifth. Tom Verdi singled and scored on a double by Alex DeBellis, who scored on a two-out single by Ferriter for a 4-1 lead. Ferriter factored in another big inning in the eighth, getting an RBI double for the first of three runs.
The 14 hits allowed by USF pitchers is the most allowed by the Bulls in any game in five weeks, since Pittsburgh had 17 in a Bulls win on April 15. Including two losses last week to West Virginia, USF has allowed at least 12 hits in each of their last three losses. Despite the proximity, USF has never won consecutive Big East tournament games in Clearwater over a span of 14 games played here going back to 2006.
USF was the only higher seed to lose in Wednesday's opening round, as the tournament's top three seeds all advanced in earlier games. Top seed Louisville beat eighth seed Pittsburgh 8-4, No. 2 St. John's beat Notre Dame 12-2 in seven innings and No. 3 seed Seton Hall got a 6-1 win against Rutgers.
Rutgers and Notre Dame play today at 10 in an elimination game, while St. John's and Seton Hall play at 1 p.m. for a spot in Saturday's semifinal round. USF and Pittsburgh have an elimination game at 5, with Louisville and UConn playing at 8 for a semifinal spot. Friday's games will eliminate two more teams and advance the other two teams to Saturday's games.