CLEARWATER — USF swept a three-game series against Connecticut just two weeks ago.
But the Bulls weren't as fortunate Wednesday in the Big East tournament opener, giving up 14 hits in a 7-2 loss to the Huskies at Bright House Field.
The loss sends USF, the No. 4 seed, into an elimination game against No. 8 Pittsburgh at 5 p.m. today.
USF (34-21) held No. 5 UConn to a combined five runs in three wins — 3-2, 3-0 and 8-3 — in Tampa May 11-13. The 14 hits allowed by USF were the most since Pittsburgh's 17 on April 15.
"In a tournament, in a tight game, you've got to get a key hit here and there," said USF coach Lelo Prado, whose team had 10 hits but stranded 14 runners. "They did, and we didn't. That's the reason. Give them credit. We have to come (today) and bounce back; hopefully get the key hits."
USF was unable to capitalize on its opportunities. It had runners at first and third with no outs in the fifth but lost the lead runner in a rundown after a bunt and didn't score. It left the bases loaded in the eighth and stranded two in the ninth.
"Look at the numbers. They don't lie. We left a lot of guys on base," Prado said. "When you do that, there's a good chance for disaster, and everything has to be perfect. It wasn't. They played a lot better than they did that weekend. I knew they would play a lot better."
The Bulls got into trouble with the game's first batter. Billy Ferriter walked, got to second on a throwing error by pitcher Andrew Barbosa and scored when catcher Blake Sydeski's throw to third on a steal went into leftfield.
Sydeski had an RBI single to cut UConn's lead to 2-1 in the third, but the Huskies scored twice in the fifth. Tom Verdi singled and scored on a double by Alex DeBellis, who scored on a two-out single by Ferriter for a 4-1 lead.
Ferriter factored into another big inning, getting an RBI double for the first of three runs in the eighth.
USF was the only higher seed to lose on Wednesday. Top-seeded Louisville beat Pittsburgh 8-4. No. 2 St. John's beat No. 7 Notre Dame 12-2 in seven innings, and No. 3 Seton Hall got a 6-1 win against No. 6 Rutgers.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected]y.com.
Big East baseball tournament
When/where: Through Sunday; Bright House Field, Clearwater
Tickets: One-day pass $8, all-week pass $32; students/seniors/children/military $16 for all-week pass, $6 for daily
TV: Sunday's championship airs on ESPNU
Format: Double elimination
Today: No. 6 seed Rutgers vs. No. 7 Notre Dame, 10 a.m.; No. 2 St. John's vs. No. 3 Seton Hall, 1 p.m.; No. 8 Pittsburgh vs. No. 4 USF, 5; No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 5 Connecticut, 8