CLEARWATER — It was easily USF's longest inning of the season, but also its best.
Nine consecutive batters reached base in the third — interrupted but not slowed by a 3-hour, 38-minute rain delay — and the Bulls struck for eight runs on their way to a 12-5 victory against Pittsburgh to stay alive in the Big East tournament at Bright House Field on Thursday night.
No. 4-seeded USF (35-21) faces the loser of this morning's Louisville-Connecticut game — postponed Thursday night because of the rain — at 6 tonight. The winner advances to Saturday's semifinals needing two wins to reach Sunday's championship game.
"Long day, but we lived to play again," said USF coach Lelo Prado, whose team lost 7-2 to Connecticut on Wednesday. "We took good swings the whole game, which we didn't do (Wednesday). So that's a good sign for (today)."
The bottom of USF's order got the third started with catcher Drew Longley walking and shortstop Kyle Teaf getting hit by a pitch. Then the hits came: a bloop single by Alex Mendez to load the bases, a two-run single by second baseman Luis Llerena, two-run double by centerfielder James Ramsay and an RBI single by first baseman Todd Brazeal.
Then lightning forced the teams off the field, and heavy rain delayed the game until 9:40, when the Bulls' onslaught resumed. Designated hitter Blake Sydeski walked. Rightfielder Jimmy Falla hit an RBI double, and third baseman Zac Gilcrease added a two-run single for a 9-0 lead.
It was the Bulls' highest-scoring inning of the year, trumping a seven-run inning in a March 3 win against Savannah State. USF hadn't scored nine runs in a game since the last time it faced Pitt (28-28), a 9-8 win on April 15.
No. 8 Pitt scored four in the fifth off Joey Lovecchio, normally a top starter but pressed into duty to relieve Derrick Stultz because the delay.
Two other games were completed. No. 2 St. John's earned a spot in the semifinals with a 6-3 win against No. 3 Seton Hall. The Red Storm led 1-0 after four but got four in the fifth on its way to avenging a loss to Seton Hall in last year's Big East championship.
No. 7 Notre Dame, which was routed by St. John's 12-2 Wednesday, stayed alive with a 9-0 win against No. 6 Rutgers in an elimination game.
The last time Notre Dame won a game by at least nine runs one day removed from losing by at least 10 runs was 1996. It lost 13-3 at Illinois on April 23, then beat St. Norbert 13-0. The Irish are the first team to accomplish the feat in the Big East tournament since Villanova in 2008.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.