Over early: Cincy beats USF 11-1 in seven
CLEARWATER – Entering Wednesday's game against second-seeded Cincinnati, USF had momentum, with four straight wins against Notre Dame, and opportunity, with two of the top three seeds in the Big East tournament already eliminated.
But the sixth-seeded Bulls didn't have any of the intensity they'd shown the night before, so coach Lelo Prado was worried long before the Bearcats cruised to an 11-1 win in seven innings at Bright House Field.
"I knew we were in trouble in the locker room," Prado said. "For us to win, we have to play with great intensity, great enthusiasm. I don't know how you don't bring it today, but that's been our season."
So while Cincinnati earned a spot in Friday's semifinals, USF (30-26) is relegated to the losers' bracket, where they'll face seventh-seeded West Virginia (35-20) in an elimination game tonight at 7, needing another two wins Friday just to get to Saturday's championship game.
"Our backs are against the wall now, and we have to see how we perform," said senior Joey Angelberger, who had one of USF's six hits. "We've got to win every game the rest of this tournament and get to a regional. That's our ultimate goal as a team."
All eight games in the tournament have been decided by at least six runs, with plenty of upsets along the way. USF entered the fifth inning tied 1-1 with Cincinnati (38-19), then saw things fall apart.
Bearcats centerfielder Tony Campana, who led off the game with a triple and scored, opened the fifth with a double and scored on a sacrfice fly. A two-run home run by Mike Spina made it 4-1, and the Bearcats added three runs in the sixth. Campana's two-out grand slam in the seventh invoked a 10-run, seven-inning mercy rule, sending the Bulls to the showers early.
"They hit D.T.," Prado said of junior starter Daniel Thomas, who gave up nine hits and eight runs, five earned. "Early in the game, we didn't do our job offensively. We had chances and didn't do our job."
Cincinnati and Louisville have clinched spots in Friday's semifinals, while four teams will play today for the remaining spots. Seton Hall and Villanova meet in an elimination game today at 4 p.m., then USF freshman Randy Fontanez (4-3, 3.35) gets the start against West Virginia. Wednesday's four games drew an attendance of 2,693 to Bright House, up from 2,219 on Tuesday.