Cincinnati eliminates Bulls, 13-2
CLEARWATER – If one moment encapsulated the frustration of USF’s up-and-down season, it was in the third inning of Friday’s Big East semifinal against Cincinnati.
Sophomore Shawn Sanford, given a key start after losing his job as the Bulls’ closer, picked a runner off first base and darted off toward the dugout in celebration. The only problem? It was only the second out.
The next batter, Cincinnati’s Mike Spina, sent a pitch off the Frenchy’s tiki hut in left field for a 2-1 lead, and two batters later, Justin Riddell hit a two-run double, helping the Bearcats to an easy 13-2 win that put them in today’s championship game and eliminated the Bulls.
“We didn’t play worth a flip against them,” USF coach Lelo Prado said. “They played better than us, they pitched better than us. The two teams that should be in the finals are. They deserve it.”
Even down 6-2 in the seventh, the sixth-seeded Bulls (31-26) had the bases loaded for senior first baseman Joey Angelberger, who grounded into one of three rally-crushing double plays for the Bulls.
“We had Joey in the right spot,” Prado said. “He’s been carrying us the last week and a half, so you can’t expect him to do it every time.”
Cincinnati followed the double play with a seven-run eighth, tagging three Bulls pitchers for six hits and triggering the 10-run mercy rule, ending USF’s season an inning early.
“Getting cut short an inning and getting embarrassed like that is never a good way to go out, but it happens,” Angelberger said. “Our young guys just need to learn from it and remember this feeling.”
USF has only four seniors, though juniors Daniel Thomas and Addison Maruszak are also likely draft picks. Of 35 players on roster, 27 were in their first season at USF, and Prado said the momentum of five wins in the last seven games will help next season.
“We’re making strides, and I’m happy for the freshmen, because this experience will help them next year and in the years to come,” Prado said. “I’m disappointed in the way some other guys played. Some other guys didn’t step up all year, and we needed them to do that.”