CLEARWATER — Hoping to at least encounter some timely hits in the final act of his USF coaching career, Lelo Prado saw them in profusion Wednesday night.
From the collective bat barrels of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
The fourth-seeded Knights (30-23) erupted for eight runs off nine hits in the third inning en route to a seven-inning, 10-0 rout of the Bulls on the opening night of the American Athletic Conference baseball tournament.
The loss, shortened by the 10-run mercy rule, all but assures the eight-year Prado era will end Saturday, after which he'll start his new administrative gig in USF's athletic department.
Fifth-seeded USF (26-30), loser of 12 of its past 14, must win its two remaining games in pool play — against top-seeded Louisville and No. 8 Memphis — and hope for some improbable twists in the tiebreaker scenarios to reach Sunday's final.
"We just didn't have it today," Prado said. "We didn't hit at certain spots, we didn't pitch and we didn't play good defense in certain spots. … I'm very disappointed the way we played. We disappointed our fans."
Playing with a tweaked starting infield, the Bulls committed two first-inning errors leading to an unearned Rutgers run. Then ugliness ensued.
In its most productive inning of the year, Rutgers sent 13 batters to the plate in the third as eight consecutive Knights reached safely at one point.
Right-hander Casey Mulholland (4-3), who totaled 15 innings his previous two starts, exited with one out in the third, his most abbreviated start of the season for USF.
Earlier, Houston beat Temple 3-0 and UCF defeated UConn 7-1.