Bulls outslug West Virginia, stay alive 11-6
CLEARWATER -- USF couldn't find their bats Friday morning, but found them late Friday night, outslugging West Virginia 11-6 to stay alive in the loser's bracket of the Big East tournament at Bright House Field.
The second-seeded Bulls (34-24) advance to play Connecticut at 1 p.m. in today's semifinals, needing to beat the Huskies twice to reach Sunday's final.
"We're alive. We're on life support. We live for another day," said coach Lelo Prado, who matched his best total in three seasons at USF with his 34th win.
The Bulls scored six runs on five hits in the seventh, helped by two errors by West Virginia shortstop Jedd Gyorko. Second baseman Peter Brotons, batting ninth in the USF lineup, got the scoring started with a bases-loaded double for a 6-5 lead, and pinch-hitter Brandon Smith finished the rally with a two-run double to left.
"We stayed focus, didn't let that first game get us off track," Brotons said. "You get that momentum, after one hit comes another. That's what wins games."
West Virginia (37-18) came in averaging nine runs a game and hitting .361 as a team -- both best in the Big East this season -- but USF starter Derrick Stultz held the Mountaineers to three hits in five innings. Reliever Kevin Quackenbush held West Virginia to one run in four innings for the win.
"Quackenbush, I can't say enough about the job he did," coach Lelo Prado said. "When you keep that team down like that, it's pretty good, because they can hit the ball. They're scary, even in the ninth inning, up by six."
Quackenbush got help from freshman shortstop Sam Mende in the eighth inning -- with two on and two out in the heart of West Virginia's lineup, Mende snagged a would-be base hit deep in the hole and threw to second to end the inning .. and West Virginia's last shot at scoring.
"Unbelievable play," Quackenbush said, and Prado called it a "major-league play."
Todd Brazeal had a three-run home run in the fifth to give the Bulls a 4-3 lead. Prado couldn't say who he'd start against Connecticut on Saturday, but lefties Teddy Kaufman and Matt Reed are among the most likely options.
A half a day earlier, USF mustered only five hits in a 4-2 loss to Connecticut early Friday, and had the bases loaded in the ninth with two outs, only to see Brotons ground out to end the game.
Top-seeded Louisville and sixth-seeded Connecticut have advanced to today's semifinals. Louisville needs one win in two games against Notre Dame -- the first is set for 9 a.m. this morning.
Notre Dame trailed 9-0 against St. John's before a rain delay of two hours and 38 minutes, and the Irish rallied back to win 11-10 in the bottom of the ninth to stay alive.