CLEARWATER — Knowing its next loss would be its last of the season, USF stepped up with clutch hitting Thursday night, driving in nine runs with two outs in a 10-5 win against West Virginia in the Big East tournament at Bright House Field.
"It's a positive sign to score 10 runs and get 12 hits," said coach Lelo Prado, still frustrated by the lack of offense a night earlier in a 3-2 loss to St. John's. "For us to win, we're going to have to put some good innings together. We did that (Thursday) and we won, so we live for tomorrow."
The Bulls play at 7 tonight in an elimination game against the loser of Thursday night's Louisville-St. John's matchup.
The Bulls (26-31) got a strong seven innings from 6-foot-8 junior left-hander Andrew Barbosa, who struck out eight and held West Virginia to six hits.
Todd Brazeal's three-run homer in the third inning erased a 2-0 deficit.
"When he hit the three-run home run, I got to settle down," said Barbosa, who may have pitched his last game for USF as a potential high pick in next month's amateur draft. "It makes you feel better when you have the lead and you know your hitters are starting to get into the game."
West Virginia (27-29) got within 4-3 in the fifth, but USF answered with three runs on an RBI single by Stephen Hunt and a two-run single by Jonathan Koscso.
It was a rough night for Koscso, who nearly had to leave the game in the first inning after a foul bunt went off the side of his neck. The game was stopped for several minutes as trainers checked him, but he not only stayed in the game, he reached base five times, driving in two runs and scoring three times. In the eighth inning, he set USF's career record of being hit by a pitch for the 55th time.
USF's offense got on track with Brazeal's shot to left, his fifth of the season. He said the Bulls were motivated to find the hits that were missing Wednesday, especially in two-out situations.
"We didn't really hit well (Wednesday) — it (stunk) because (starter Randy Fontanez) pitched (so well)," Brazeal said. "(Thursday) we got a lot more confidence going into tomorrow, and we're going to need a lot of confidence and everybody pulling for each other."
RUTGERS 6, UCONN 5: The sixth-seeded Scarlet Knights got their second upset in as many days, holding off the second-seeded Huskies. Rutgers (30-24) got three hits from second baseman Steve Nyisztor and two from catcher Jayson Hernandez. Rutgers advances to Saturday's semifinals, while Connecticut faces Pittsburgh at 4 p.m. today in an elimination game.
PITT 13, CINCINNATI 4: The third-seeded Panthers jumped out to a 7-0 lead in eliminating the Bearcats, getting a 4-for-4 game from designated hitter Kevan Smith. Pittsburgh (38-17) pounded 19 hits off seven pitchers, with every starter getting at least one hit.