Bulls lose again, need win vs. Louisville
USF took its second straight loss at Louisville on Friday afternoon by a 4-3 score, and the Bulls now trail the Cardinals in the Big East standings entering the final game of the regular season. USF needs a win in the second game of today's doubleheader if it wants to be the regular-season conference champion.
USF starter Shawn Sanford dominated early, holding Louisville to three hits in the first six innings. With USF up 1-0, Sanford gave up two runs on four hits in the seventh. With runners on second and third, USF turned to ace Randy Fontanez, who made his first career relief appearance. Fontanez retired the next three batters in order, stranding the runners and keeping USF within a run.
Fontanez got the first two outs in the bottom of the eighth, but gave up a walk, then a two-run home run to Louisville's Chris Dominguez to give the Cardinals a 4-1 lead.
After totaling five hits in the first eight innings, the Bulls came alive in the ninth, with a leadoff single from Junior Carlin, a double by pinch-hitter Brandon Smith and an RBI single by Sam Mende to cut the lead to 4-2. That put the tying run on base with no outs, and the Bulls got a sacrifice fly by Peter Brotons to pull within 4-3. With two outs and a runner at first, Ryan Lockwood grounded out to end the game.
The winner of Friday's second game will be the Big East regular-season champ, while the loser will have the No. 2 seed for next week's conference tournament, which starts Tuesday in Clearwater. USF will start Teddy Kaufman, who threw five innings on Tuesday night and isn't likely to pitch too many innings.
Carlin went 1-for-4 for the second day in a row, which drops his conference batting average to .470, but gives him enough at-bats to be eligible for the Big East batting crown.
Fontanez, who was to be held out of the Louisville series to give him optimal rest for next week's tournament, pitched two innings of relief, but that shouldn't have a significant impact on his ability to start Tuesday and last into the late innings.