USF baseball gets sixth in ninth to stun Toledo
USF baseball is still just 4-6, but Sunday's wild comeback in the bottom of the ninth against Toledo -- six runs, overcoming an 8-3 deficit and getting four straight hits with two outs -- could give the Bulls some momentum to help find their way out of a 1-5 start to the season.
"It was a great comeback. For the most part, our hitters have done a great job all year," coach Lelo Prado said. "They battled and had some great at-bats in that last inning, and I'm just happy for the kids. You get a win like that, it gets you jumpstarted, and hopefully keeps it rolling. It would have been tough to overcome (losing the weekend series)."
The comeback really started in the top of the ninth -- closer Steven Leasure had given up a run, extending Toledo's lead to five, and there were runners at second and third with one out and two hitters coming to the plate with a combined five hits in the game. But Leasure got a pair of infield groundouts to strand the runners in scoring position, the Bulls still down 8-3 and down to their last three outs.
"It could have been a lot more," Prado said. "We were pretty much done. This was one of those things that happens in baseball. You start believing, you get a hit here and there, get a run closer. I knew if I could get to Mendez and Ramsay and those guys, with one swing of the bat, we could make something happen."
Jimmy Falla led off with a walk, and catcher Chris Norton -- a senior who went 1-for-20 last year after transferring in from Marshall, but is now starting, thanks to a .417 average -- singled to put two on. Sophomore outfielder Austin Lueck -- who also had one hit in all of last season, but is now starting and hitting .455 -- struck out for the first out.
Freshman Levi Borders, who had just one RBI to show for his first 28 college at-bats, hit a two-run double to cut the Toledo lead to 8-5. Junior Anthony Diaz struck out, and USF was down to its last out, with its No. 9 hitter at the plate, a redshirt freshman walk-on.
That redshirt freshman walk-on, however, is second baseman Nik Alfonso, a Tampa Catholic grad who has also grabbed a starting spot with clutch hitting -- his .444 average is second among regulars behind only Lueck. Alfonso singled to bring in Borders, making it 8-6 and bringing the tying run to the plate in shortstop Kyle Teaf.
Teaf had been 0-for-3, the only starter without a hit by then, but he too came through with a two-out single through the left side, as Alex Mendez did through the right side to load the bases. The game came down to USF's RBI leader, centerfielder James Ramsay, who went to a full count, then ripped a ball to right-center field to clear the bases and give the Bulls the rarest of wild endings: the walkoff triple.
The Bulls had six hits in the inning, four with two outs, and the rally gave the Bulls the weekend series after a one-run loss on Saturday. They have now won three of four games heading into a two-game series with Boston College on Tuesday and Wednesday.