USF baseball falls 7-3 in Big East title game
CLEARWATER -- After four wins in the losers' bracket to reach their first-ever Big East championship game, USF baseball saw its hopes of a conference crown end Sunday afternoon, as bullpen troubles cost the Bulls in a 7-3 win to second-seeded St. John's at Bright House Field.
USF (38-22) led the Red Storm 3-2 in the sixth, but with limited arms in their sixth game in five days, the Bulls saw St. John's (37-21) pull away to their second championship in three years and a record seventh overall.
"We needed to score runs today, and I knew that was going to be a factor," coach Lelo Prado said. "Yesterday we had to use a lot of our big guns. ... I don't want anybody to be happy with runner-up. I want to win Big East championships, and we want to get to Omaha one day. It's a great lesson for these young men. They fought hard, and when you compete and play together, good things happen. That's what happened to us this week."
After winning 25 games and missing the conference tournament entirely last year, USF matched the program's best single-season improvement in 23 years this season. Senior left-hander Andrew Barbosa, who also pitched Wednesday, lasted into the sixth and left with the lead, but said this week was a great run for the team's seniors.
"It's unbelievable. From the beginning of the season, we knew we had a great team," Barbosa said.
Pitcher Derrick Stultz and outfielders Jimmy Falla and James Ramsay were named to the All-Tournament team, with St. John's starter Matt Carasiti getting Most Outstanding Player honors after picking up his second win Sunday.
Entering with two on and a 3-2 lead, reliever Andrew Loynaz hit the first two batters he faced, the latter with the bases loaded, then gave up a sacrifice fly for a 4-3 Red Storm lead. St. John's added two more runs with a two-out two-run single by Bret Dennis in the seventh.
USF lost its opener in Clearwater on Wednesday, but won four straight in the losers' bracket, including two wins against Connecticut on Saturday to put themselves in the championship game for the first time. With an RPI of 64 entering the game, USF is unlikely to command an at-large bid, with St. John's and Louisville expected to represent the Big East in the NCAA field.
Prado remained optimistic about USF's chances for Monday's selection, despite an RPI of 66 according to WarrenNolan.com and a 5-8 record against top-50 opponents.
"Thirty-eight wins, look around the country, there's not many teams with 38 wins," he said. "You're leaving it up to a committee, so uopefully we've done enough work."