CLEARWATER — If one moment encapsulated the frustration of USF's up-and-down season, it came in the third inning of Friday's Big East tournament semifinal against Cincinnati.
Sophomore Shawn Sanford, given a key start after losing his job as the Bulls' closer, picked a runner off first base and darted off toward the dugout in celebration. The only problem? It was only the second out.
The next batter, Cincinnati's Mike Spina, sent a pitch over the leftfield wall for a 2-1 lead. Two batters later, Justin Riddell hit a two-run double. It was the beginning of the end in the Bearcats' easy 13-2 win, which put them in today's championship game against No. 4 seed Louisville and eliminated the Bulls at Bright House Field.
"We didn't play worth a flip against them," USF coach Lelo Prado said. "They played better than us, they pitched better than us. The two teams that should be in the finals are. They deserve it."
Even down 6-2 in the seventh, the sixth-seeded Bulls (31-27) had the bases loaded for senior first baseman Joey Angelberger, but he grounded into one of three rally-crushing double plays for the Bulls.
"We had Joey in the right spot," Prado said. "He's been carrying us the last week and a half, so you can't expect him to do it every time."
Cincinnati (39-19) followed the double play with a seven-run eighth, tagging three Bulls pitchers for six hits and triggering the 10-run mercy rule, ending USF's season an inning early.
"Getting cut short an inning and getting embarrassed like that is never a good way to go out, but it happens," Angelberger said. "Our young guys just need to learn from it and remember this feeling."
LOUISVILLE 13, VILLANOVA 6: Justin McClanahan went 5-for-6 with two home runs and seven RBIs, breaking a slew of tournament records in leading the Cardinals into today's final.
McClanahan set tournament records for RBIs in a game and tournament (12), and teammate Chris Dominguez hit a 3-run homer that gives him nine RBIs in three games. Both Louisville and Cincinnati have scored at least 11 runs in each of their three games in Clearwater.