Bulls stay alive with 12-5 win over Pittsburgh
CLEARWATER -- It was easily USF's longest inning of the season, but also the Bulls' best.
USF had nine straight batters reach base in the third -- interrupted by a 3-hour, 38-minute rain delay, but not slowed down -- and struck for eight runs on the way to a 12-5 victory against Pittsburgh to stay alive in the Big East tournament at Bright House Field.
"Long day, but we lived to play again tomorrow," coach Lelo Prado said after the six-hour, 20-minute game. "We did a great job. Todd Brazeal and those guys did a great job offensively. We even took good swings there the whole game, which we didn't do yesterday, so that's a good sign for tomorrow."
USF (35-21) will face the loser of this morning's Louisville-Connecticut game (postponed from Thursday night by the rain) at 6 p.m., with the winner advancing to Saturday's semifinals, needing two wins there to reach Sunday's championship.
The bottom of USF's batting order got the third started, with catcher Drew Longley walking and shortstop Kyle Teaf getting hit by a pitch. Then the hits came -- a bloop single by Alex Mendez to load the bases, then a two-run single by second baseman Luis Llerena and a two-run double by centerfielder James Ramsay, followed by an RBI single by first baseman Todd Brazeal.
Then lightning took the teams off the field, and heavy rains delayed the game until 9:40 p.m., when the Bulls' onslaught resumed. Designated hitter Blake Sydeski walked, then rightfielder Jimmy Falla hit an RBI double and third baseman Zac Gilcrease added a two-run single for a 9-0 lead.
It was the Bulls' highest-scoring inning of the year, trumping a seven-run inning in a March 3 win against Savannah State, and USF hadn't scored nine runs in a game since the last time they faced Pittsburgh (28-28), winning 9-8 on April 15 despite giving up 17 hits.
Pittsburgh struck for four runs in the fifth off reliever Joey Lovecchio, normally a top starter but pressed into relief of starter Derrick Stultz, who threw only 29 pitches in two innings before the long delay.
Two games were completed Thursday, with second-seeded St. John's earning a spot in the semifinals with a 6-3 win against Seton Hall (34-23). The Red Storm (35-21) led just 1-0 after four innings, but got four runs in the fifth, chasing Pirates starter Ryan Harvey (6-4). Rightfielder Jimmy Brennan went 3-for-4 with two RBIs for St. John's, which avenged a loss to Seton Hall in last year's Big East championship game.
Seventh-seeded Notre Dame (30-27) stayed alive with a 9-0 win against sixth-seeded Rutgers (31-25) to eliminate the Scarlet Knights. Irish centerfielder Charlie Markson went 4-for-5 with a home run and four runs scored, and Notre Dame finished with 14 hits while starter Will Hudgins held Rutgers to four hits in seven scoreless innings. Notre Dame won two of three games from Rutgers in the regular season.