Herget, Bulls beat Rutgers 5-2 in Big East tourney
CLEARWATER -- The day after he was named Big East Rookie of the Year, USF freshman Jimmy Herget pitched into the eighth inning, leading the Bulls to a 5-2 win against Rutgers in the opening round of the Big East tournament at Bright House Field.
On a day where the tournament's top two seeds lost their opening games, the fourth-seeded Bulls advanced to play eighth-seeded Connecticut at 8 p.m. for a spot in Saturday's semifinals. USF swept Connecticut on the road in the regular season, winning two one-run games and another in the 15th inning. Rutgers plays in an elimination game against top-seeded Louisville at 5. Third-seeded Pittsburgh and seventh-seeded Notre Dame also won in Thursday's opening-round games, beating St. John's and Seton Hall.
Rutgers had four hits in the first three innings, but Herget was able to get out of trouble and USF trailed just 1-0 on Brian O'Grady's sacrifice fly in the second. USF tied the game in the fourth, when Jimmy Falla reached base on a 12-pitch walk, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Chris Norton's double.
USF rallied for three runs and the lead in the fifth, with all three coming with two outs. Freshman Levi Borders doubled to left-center, but was held up at third on Nik Alfonso's second single of the game. With two outs, the Bulls got three straight RBI singles from Alex Mendez, James Ramsay and Falla, good for a 4-1 lead. The throw home from left field was ahead of Mendez, but the ball came loose on the tag, allowing the run to score.
Ramsay came through with another two-out single in th seventh, scoring Alfonso, who reached on his third single and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Kyle Teaf. Rutgers threatened in the eighth after USF loaded the bases with three walks, but reliever Lawrence Pardo got O'Grady to pop out foul to catcher. Rutgers had the bases loaded in the ninth and scored on a fielder's choice, but Chad Taylor got two infield popups with the tying run at the plate to end the game.
"The other guys didn't pitch great, but they did enough to get out of innings," coach Lelo Prado said. "It's USF baseball this year. They're trying to kill me and they're doing a great job of doing it. It's USF baseball. Now let's get back and get a good night's sleep."
The two teams had met last weekend, with USF taking two of three games from Rutgers in its final home series in Tampa. The Bulls reached the Big East championship last year, and did so after losing their first game, winning four straight before losing to St. John's 7-3 in the final. USF's game, which started at 10:23 p.m., did not finish until after 1 a.m. Thursday.